Paul Klee: Broncos' boycott of offseason workouts over COVID-19 was a bluff -- and it worked

Apr. 14—DENVER — If the Broncos don't show up to offseason workouts, they just don't want to work.

There's no other valid explanation.

Tuesday, the Broncos' players announced through the NFL Players Association they would boycott offseason training activities (OTAs) due to concerns over COVID-19. The players are so concerned about the coronavirus Von Miller and his Instagram account recently vacationed in Tulum, Mexico.

One day later, the team announced it will host a vaccination event at UCHealth Training Center on April 21. All players and their family members are invited to receive the first Pfizer shot, and Dr. Michelle Barron, whose title is that of an infectious disease expert from UCHealth, will host a virtual seminar to answer any questions.

The Broncos could not be making it any easier for the players to alleviate their alleged fears.

Me thinks the proposed boycott was a bluff.

"This whole thing's fluid," player rep Brandon McManus said on Denver's 104.3 The Fan.

The bluff worked. Barely 24 hours after the Broncos became the first team to state their concerns over the lack of a detailed plan for OTAs, the NFL responded with a detailed plan for OTAs. It shows the schedule and structure of offseason workouts, along with the guarantee of a rapid same-day test for COVID-19.

"We got a reaction from the NFL. So now we have information," McManus said on the radio. "Do you think it was a successful thing, or no?"

The Broncos went 5-11 last year and, according to them, part of the reason for the fourth straight losing season was the absence of OTAs in 2020. OTAs went virtual due to COVID-19.

Here are the receipts.

"We didn't have OTAs or preseason to dig in and really figure out who we are as an offense," offensive lineman Garett Bolles said in January.

"It can only get better from here — more reps in OTAs, more reps in training camp, and then go into a game super confident," quarterback Drew Lock said back then.

"But a team like us, I think we're the youngest offense in the league. We could have definitely benefited from it (OTAs)," wide receiver Tim Patrick said then.

On Jan. 1, pass rusher Bradley Chubb echoed the benefit of OTAs: "I feel certainly having no offseason was ... especially for the young guys, with all the young talent we had, with a new (offensive coordinator) and trying to learn a new offense over virtual meetings and not being able to walk through it and not being to hear Drew's voice with reps in the OTAs, it gets difficult with stuff like that."

How does boycotting offseason workouts solve the absence of offseason workouts? 'Tis a riddle.

But using the prospect of a terrible illness to get something else you want is a trendy and effective bargaining chip.

Offseason workouts are "voluntary," by the way, up until a three-day minicamp in June. It would be the upset of the offseason if Von Miller is not in attendance when the Broncos are scheduled to convene for Phase One on Monday. Von's not a businessman. He's a business, man, and his workout bonus is a hefty $500,000. Other than that, Miller needs OTAs like you need a flat tire.

McManus, who is really good at this player rep stuff, said non-boycotters still will be welcomed.

"If you want to go, we 100% support that," he said.

Good, because Lord knows there's enough picking on the little guy right now. The players who would be hurt most are the new players, the youngest players, the CJ Andersons and Phillip Lindsays, the players simply trying to make the team by any means possible — not to mention the incumbent quarterback, Drew Lock.

"There's so much involved with evaluating the quarterback. So I look forward to evaluating Drew in person, rather than through film," general manager George Paton said weeks ago.

The impetus behind the Broncos' boycott was a lack of information on OTAs. As McManus said: "Nobody knows what the hell's going on. Not a single person knows what's going to happen."

Now they know, and here's a hunch the OTAs now will go on. There's no valid reason not to.