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. 

Here's how the new CBA impacts the Bears' roster

Here's how the new CBA impacts the Bears' roster

The NFLPA voted to approve the ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) on Sunday, bringing labor peace to the NFL through 2030.

The headline items from the new deal are the expanded playoff format (which begins in 2020) and the potential for a 17th regular-season game beginning in the 2021 season. But there will be significant impacts that extend beyond the schedule and revenue sharing.

Rosters will look different, and general managers will have more flexibility to work with.

Gameday rosters increase from 46 to 48 players

Naturally, with more games come more injuries. And the only way for teams to prepare for those injuries is by having more players available. One of the most difficult decisions that face coaches each week is who the final two or three players should be on game day. Now, with two more players available for active duty, the end result will be a more well-rounded Sunday squad.

One extra offensive lineman 

So, here's the catch. One of those two extra gameday spots has to be an offensive lineman. Teams can now carry three backups on Sundays (or Monday night...or Thursday night) instead of the traditional two.

12-man practice squad in 2020; 14 in 2022

One of the biggest benefits for roster building is the expansion of the practice squad from 10 players to 12 in 2020. It grows to 14 players in 2022. And practice squads will be more appealing to players than any competitor leagues, too, with salaries for those players rising from $8,000 per week to $11,500. This is especially good news for teams like the Bears who have a well-established roster of starters and veteran backups but may want to have developmental options in the pipeline. The larger practice squad gives them the chance to do that (especially at quarterback).

Two practice squad promotions each week for an expanded 55-man roster

Speaking of those practice squads, NFL teams will be given the option to promote two practice squad players to their new 55-man active roster every week. Remember: the current structure allows for 53 players on the active roster which gets cut to 46 on game day. With the two practice squad promotions, the active roster grows to 55.

The best news? NFL teams can send those players back to the practice squad without having to clear waivers (and risk losing them to another team). Each player can be called up and sent back to the practice squad twice without the risk of waivers.

NFLPA votes to approve new CBA

NFLPA votes to approve new CBA

The NFLPA voted to approve a new collective bargaining agreement by a vote of 1,019 to 909, the NFLPA announced Sunday morning.

The new CBA will add a 17th regular-season game and expand the existing playoff format while increasing the players' share of the revenue and provide more benefits to former players.

With labor peace in place for the next 10 years, NFL teams can plan for the 2020 offseason with more certainty. Most important is the clarity with the franchise and transition tags. Teams will be limited to just one.

The NFL hasn't announced any delay or postponement to the start of free agency due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The legal tampering period is scheduled to begin on March 16 with signings becoming official on March 18.