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As offseason programs open, workout bonus issue remains unresolved

President Trump had a conference call with commissioners of major sports leagues and one of the big reported takeaways was his belief the NFL season will start on time this year.

In a normal world (i.e., any world but the one in which we currently reside), the offseason programs would be opening today for the teams that have new coaches (Browns, Panthers, Cowboys, Giants, Washington). They’re not opening today, and they likely won’t open at all in 2020.

So what happens with the millions of dollars in workout bonuses that can be earned by players?

The issue remains unresolved by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. Per a league source, the NFL wants players to perform workouts via videoconference and to wear heart monitors in order to confirm they’re reaching the desire level of activity while working out in order to qualify.

Apart from the question of workout bonuses, which appear in the contracts of only a relatively small fraction of the league, is the issue of offseason per diem. As recently noted by Mike Garafolo of NFL Media, players earn $235 per day for participating in the offseason program.

For young players, that’s a nice little chunk of walking-around money. At time when no one is walking around, however, it’s unknown whether they will qualify for the daily payment by participating in meetings via computer/cell phone device and by working out at home?

Then there’s the possibility of a limited offseason program and/or a pre-training camp period. Will compliance with a formal program that could still happen count as compliance for workout-bonus purposes, even if the player doesn’t comply with the unofficial, at-home program?

In the grand scheme of things, it’s a very small issue. For players who have in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars riding on the outcome (e.g., $750,000 for Packers pass rusher ZaDarius Smith) it’s a pretty big deal. And some would say it’s an issue that should have been resolved at some point before the date on which offseason programs were due to open.