Catching up with Allen Robinson about QB competitions, CBA complaints, and COVID-19

Catching up with Allen Robinson about QB competitions, CBA complaints, and COVID-19

Even while quarantined, there's a lot going on in Allen Robinson's life right now. While dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bears' star receiver is also in the middle of contract extension talks with a team that also just so happened to trade for another quarterback. On Thursday afternoon, Robinson chatted with NBC Sports Chicago about all that's been going on during one of the most unique – not to mention challenging – offseasons in football's history:

So, how easy is it to follow your normal offseason routine while being quarantined? 
You know, it’s easy to follow some of it. The biggest thing is not getting as much running in as I’d like to get in, but for the most part, lifting wise, and some of the plyometric things, are what I’ve been able to do. 

Where were you when you heard about Nick Foles?
I was actually in New York, and I was quarantined there. I ended up driving back to Chicago. Free agency time is always so tough because you have players going out and players coming in, so you lose some of the teammates that you had and that you’ve played with for an extended period of time. Guys like Taylor Gabriel, Prince Amukamara, Nick Kwiatkoski – guys that I’ve played with for a couple of years and really got to grow with and bond with. When you lose guys like that, it’s always tough. 

For me, hearing about Nick from some of my teammates from Jacksonville, it’s been nothing but positive things about him, and Jimmy Graham. It should be exciting to get those guys in a locker room to just try and continue to improve our winning culture. 

It seems like there's a quarterback competition coming to Halas Hall in 2020. How often does a WR room feel any ripple effects from that competition? 
I think as a receiver, you can’t let it have too much validity on everything. At the end of the day, you’ve got to go out there. No matter who’s throwing the ball, you’ve got to make sure that you’re doing what you’re supposed to. I think if you continue to put yourself in the right position and the right place timing wise, whatever the assignment is for you, I think everything plays out fine. I don’t think you can wrap too much into this or that – whoever’s throwing the ball, you just have to go out there and do your job. 

It’s also easy to see a world where the Bears don’t publicly name a starter any time soon. In the locker room, though, do players expect more clarity than that? 
That’s tough to say. Honestly, for me, I haven’t truly been a part of that. I don’t foresee it being like that. I think everybody understands. Especially for us, with our team, we have a lot of vets in our locker room. So everybody understands the football side and the football aspect of it. I think at the end of the day, I think guys are just going to go out there and do their thing. Everything else is up to the coaches. That’s their decision to make. For us, we just try and go out and do what we can. I think especially it’s especially important for us because we have a lot of vets, and when you have a lot of vets – guys who have been around the game a while and seen a lot of football – things like that, however they’re handled, don’t really mess with locker room. I think that guys understand that we just want to go out there and win games. So whatever our coaches feel, whatever anybody feels, if it’s going to help us win games than that is what it is. I don’t think that we can wrap our minds and opinions around that too much. 

You’ve been a vocal critic about the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. What’s your biggest issue with the new deal? 
I think the biggest issue is that there were a lot of non-negotiables from the other side. That was a big thing. For us, as players, when we sat in different meetings and things like that, everything that we wanted to negotiate was deemed non-negotiable. For us, it didn’t give us a chance to have much of a voice our opinion on anything. Especially with playing more games and things like that, because that’s pretty big. I tell everybody: now that it’s 17 regular season games and an extra playoff game, there will never be 16 games again. In the next CBA, I’m sure the owners will probably propose 20 games, 18 games. You don’t know what that may be. So when you look at that, I figure that’s pretty big because the number of games is only going to continue moving forward. 

It does seem like a lot of the discussion under-emphasizes the physical cost of expansion. What sort of tolls do you expect even one more game to take on players? 
It’ll take a lot. I think the biggest thing is people don’t understand that it only takes one game for someone to get hurt. Depending on where a player is in their career – statistically, for a lot of the guys in their first or second year that suffer what’s deemed as season-ending injuries, the chances of playing football that following season are very slim to none. So whenever you get more games involved, the percentage of injuries go up. It’s a game that’s 100% going to have injuries. The more snaps you play, the more chances you have to put yourself at risk and get injured. 

How closely were you following the negotiations? What was your day-to-day in regards to talking with teammates about it?
Well I’m not an official team rep or an official PA rep, but for us, they would have guys from the NFLPA come in and talk to the team. Just kind of present different opinions and explain where we were at and different things like that. So for me, I had my opinion. Like I said before, the biggest thing was when I found out that the owners wanted 17 games. The questions I was asking were, “OK, so for us, what can we possibly gain from a 17th game? And the percentage of revenue was already non-negotiable for them. Some of the other things – like not having lifetime healthcare – were also non-negotiable. So there were a lot of things deemed non-negotiable. The only thing that we could possibly negotiate was work hours. I think for us, that would have had to have been a pretty extreme give by the owners. I won’t say my opinion about what should have been proposed work hours wise, training camp, regular season, everything. You know, seeing that we didn’t have much leverage to negotiate anything else – because so much was deemed non-negotiable – we didn’t have much to negotiate on our end. That’s why I think a lot of guys saying no were saying no, because we aren’t negotiating anything. We’re pretty much being given a contract that says either we’re going to sign it or not. The things we wanted to talk about were non-negotiable. 

Did you ever get a clear explanation of why they were deemed non-negotiable?  
It was just what the owners wanted. For them, in contract talks for the new CBA, 17 games was non-negotiable. Increasing the revenue north of 48.5 was non-negotiable. Not having lifetime healthcare was non-negotiable, and there were a few other things in there. So when it’s all said and done for us, it wasn’t much that we could talk about. Maybe some benefits here and there, some different things like that, but for the most part, I don’t think it was enough. It wasn’t a true negotiation in my opinion. It was just us kind of being given something and being told, ‘OK, we can maybe benefit a little bit here and a little bit there,’ but it wasn’t us truly negotiating. It wasn’t us coming with a 50-50 kind of agreement. 

And now we’re not even sure if the NFL will play 16 regular season games in 2020. Do any of the rumored solutions (no fans, single stadium, etc) sound feasible to you? 
That’s tough to say. And the reason why that’s so tough to say is because I think for us, the first game is in the first week of September, which is an extreme amount of time out. I know they’re projecting that the coronavirus may be back in the fall, so it’s just so hard to project with us having our season out so far. For us, being professional athletes, it’s a little different than it is in college because we really have time off until the beginning of July. Then we have 2 weeks of training camp right into preseason. For us, you’re looking at a time frame of August – I’m not sure how things will be by August, but I’m assuming everyone hopes that we have this thing kind of figured out by then. If we don’t I have absolutely no idea what would be the best course of action. I’m assuming that everyone NFL-wise is predicting and playing out different scenarios as  far as things may go. My overall hope is that we have this thing under control by then. 

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell releases statement on death of George Floyd


NFL commissioner Roger Goodell releases statement on death of George Floyd

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement Saturday evening regarding the tragic death of George Floyd.

"The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country," Goodell's statement reads. "The protesters' reactions to these incidents reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.

"Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Mr. George Floyd and to those who have lost loved ones, including the families of Ms. Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Mr. Ahmaud Arbery, the cousin of Tracy Walker of the Detroit Lions."

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As protests break out nationwide, Goodell said "there remains much more to do as a country and league," to combat racial inequality.

"These tragedies inform the NFL's commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action," he said. "We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners."

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Leadership lessons Ryan Pace learned from time with Sean Payton, Saints

Leadership lessons Ryan Pace learned from time with Sean Payton, Saints

Every organization in the NFL is working hard to adapt their workflows while under COVID-19 restrictions. Rookie minicamps have already been missed. Organizations are still unable to meet as a full team, and that’s obviously a challenge. But Bears GM Ryan Pace may have a leg up due to the lessons he learned while working in the New Orleans Saints’ front office.

Pace joined Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk’s podcast “PFT PM” to explain exactly how that time in New Orleans helped to shape him as a leader, both in “normal” times and times of crisis.

“There’s no excuses in our league,” Pace said on the podcast. “That happened in New Orleans during Katrina-- really every time a hurricane came towards that city, we adapted.

“What I felt from the leadership from (Saints head coach) Sean (Payton) and (Saints GM) Mickey (Loomis) is there was never an excuse. It was: let’s adapt and let’s adjust, and that’s what we did. From 2005 to 2006, I mean that was a major shift in that team under trying times.”

Pace is referring to the Saints firing Jim Haslett and hiring Sean Payton, and installing Payton’s new systems, all while recovering from Hurricane Katrina. The Saints were incredibly successful working through those hard times too, improving from 3-13 in 2005 to 10-6 and NFC South winners in 2006.

Beyond learning to not let hard times affect his team’s success on the field, Pace says he learned a lot about how to run a team from Payton and Loomis.

“First of all, (Payton’s) very aggressive, he's not afraid to make hard decisions. He’s decisive and Mickey’s the same way: aggressive and decisive, no regrets, never looks back, not afraid to think outside the box, but also very conscious of the culture of that team.

“I think any time you drift away from that-- and it’s easy to do, and enticing to do-- but usually when you do that, once you realize you’ve done that to the locker room, the damage is already done. You try to correct yourself or police a player, the damage is already done in the locker room. So I think it’s being aggressive with the moves you make, not looking back, operating with decisiveness, but then being very conscious of the culture in the locker room.

“It’s a fine line. 12-4 to 8-8, it’s a fine line I think, because the people, the staff, the people in your building are conscious of that.”

Pace has certainly acted decisively when building his roster, trading up to draft Mitchell Trubisky, Leonard Floyd, Anthony Miller and David Montgomery.

But he later says, there’s more nuance than simply acting decisively to become an effective leader.

“When you’re making a hard decision, what’s best for the organization?” Pace said. “Not letting your ego get in the way because ‘Hey, this was your idea,’ ‘You selected this player,’ whatever it is, what’s best for the team? And sometimes those are decisions when you have to remove emotions.”

Pace has shown the ability to set aside his ego to make those hard decisions too. Most recently he opted not to pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option. He already cut Leonard Floyd. And after he didn’t offer Kyle Fuller a fifth-year option, he paid even more to keep Fuller since the cornerback proved he deserved to stay.

“For me, to be honest, I think that’s come pretty natural and pretty easy, and I think it’s because of my experience in New Orleans.”

RELATED: Why Ryan Pace ultimately decided to trade for Nick Foles

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