TAMPA, Fla. — Depending on who you talk to, the 2020 NFL season, which resulted in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl win, was a success.
Generally speaking, the league was able to stave off COVID-19 disasters, at least to the point of threatening the league’s schedule altogether, even though some teams were impacted a bit more than others.
Whether it was games missed due to close contact and/or positive tests, players opting out, or shuffling of schedules to get every game in for every team, they made it happen. And it appears this success will carry weight into how the next NFL season is executed, whether the league likes it or not.
As things continue to move towards a more operational status in society, there are still concerns about the health of players and team personnel in the NFL. With those concerns in mind on Tuesday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and union president JC Tretter released a letter to NFL players communicating the union’s recommendation regarding the beginning of voluntary workouts, scheduled to begin this coming Monday.
“We believe that having the same offseason rules as last year is in the best interest of both the players and gives us the best chance to completing a full NFL season in 2021,” stated Smith and Tretter in the communication, via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Then, later Tuesday evening, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers players became one of a few groups of players who publicly announced they will not be participating in voluntary in-person activities as a part of this year’s offseason program.
“NFL players across our league are a group of professionals who care about our jobs, our community and our families,” says the statement released by the NFLPA on behalf of Buccaneers players. “We made a commitment to the organization, to Bucs fans and to each other that we would come back to try and bring another world championship to Tampa Bay. We know that our union worked to negotiate safety protocols, but in light of the ongoing pandemic, we are choosing to take a stand with other players across the league and exercise our right to not participate in the voluntary offseason program. We had a fully virtual offseason last year and we held each other accountable to do the work it took to win and we plan to do that again.”
To an extent, the statement made on behalf of Tampa Bay’s roster has a point. Even with a new quarterback and two rookies starting in pivotal positions, the Buccaneers were able to make history by not only winning the Super Bowl but becoming the first team in league history to do so in their home stadium.
What Tom Brady, Tristan Wirfs, Antoine Winfield Jr. and their teammates were able to accomplish was certainly impressive, especially when so much was held against them entering the season due to a lack of continuity after a big change at the most important position on the field.
Now, with all of their Super Bowl starters returning, it’ll be imperative the same leaders who ensured all members of the team were doing their part from a distance are doing the same in 2021.
While the concern over the quality of preparation and the early season play which stems from it will become a topic of conversation later in the year, it’s clear this team is standing together in April as much as they did in February.
For more on this story, and all things Tampa Bay Buccaneers, check out the Locked On Bucs Podcast.