C JC Tretter (6.15.21)


On the NFL and NFLPA ‘incentivizing’ players to get vaccinated and how that process is going:

“We will start from the beginning. We have been trying our best to educate the players and everybody as much as possible and making sure everybody knows what they need to feel comfortable to make the decisions. I have gotten vaccinated – did plenty of research going into it and felt really good about it. I do not love the word ‘incentives’ because I think we are just following the science like we have from the beginning. The changes to the protocols for vaccinated players is just that. It is following the science and doing what the research, the data and science tell us vaccinated players can do based off of what the transmission rates are versus unvaccinated players. I do not love the word ‘incentives’ because that does not feel like what we are doing. We are really just following the science, doing what is best and what everybody else is doing in following the CDC guidelines. That is not directed at you – everyone is kind of saying ‘incentives,’ but I think language is important and understanding that we are not skipping corners to get guys to get vaccinated. We are just following the science, and that is what vaccinated people are allowed to do in general.”


On operations in the building when having vaccinated and unvaccinated players:

“The vaccinated players are pretty open – we do not have to wear masks, and we do not have to be tested every day. The unvaccinated players still have to follow the same kind of protocols of mask requirements and social distance. The building still is fitted for COVID really so all of that stuff is still the same. Our lockers are spread out, whether you are vaccinated or not. It is not like one group is crammed into one locker room and the rest is spaced out in a different one. We have some people who have gotten the vaccine first dose so they are on their way to having the lighter protocols once they become fully vaccinated.”


On how much benefit there would be for a team if the NFL and NFLPA ultimately establish a threshold for percentage of players vaccinated in order for the team to have less constrictive protocols throughout the building:

“I would have to read through it – I do not think we have a percentage agreed to now or any of the team stuff figured out at this point. Again, this is an individual decision, but the science is out there now. We have plenty of people and we have plenty of resources as a union so anybody who has questions or concerns, we can get you in touch with our medical team and our NFLPA doctor Thom Mayer, who has talked to I think he said over 200 players already. The teams have resources, and we can get you in touch with really any expert you want to talk to about these decisions and these vaccines. If there are people who are looking for information and looking to make a decision, feel free to reach out to the union or the team, and they will get you in touch with people who can fill you in with whatever questions or concerns you possibly have.”


On if it is frustrating at all that the league’s player vaccination numbers may not be as high as some people may have hoped:

“I would not say frustrated. Again, these are [personal] decisions. I think we are a microcosm of the community, and I think you can look at trends across communities and across the country of where the vaccine rate stands. I do not really treat us as players as any different. We are just people who play football for a living. That is really all it is. I would not say disappointed or frustrated. It is continue to educate and continue to get guys to feel comfortable with the decisions they make and understanding what changes come from either decision.”


On how effective the ‘boycott’ of OTAs were across the league:

“Again, I will say language is important. We never used the word ‘boycott.’ That was kind of used by other people. I do not think you can boycott a voluntary program. When it comes to how successful it is, I think anytime as a union you educate your membership on what their rights are under the CBA, whether that is a win or whatever, I think that is positive. When you have over two-thirds of teams negotiate with their players for better language, better rules and better working conditions than what is in the CBA, I think that is extremely positive; I think that is a win. Our goal and our hope is to make the offseason better. We know that the vast majority of players realize and understand that the offseason is kind of an archaic model and it is not in the best interest in the health and safety of the players. I think you see that when these teams agreed to walkthroughs only, sandals for walkthroughs, no helmets, no competitive periods, less time on the field, no meetings, less meetings or cancelled minicamps, those are all positive things for players. I would say that is a win. The fact that over two-thirds of coaches kind of agreed that the normal offseason program was not necessary and they were willing to cancel weeks or change the tempo, I think that is them saying, ‘You know what? Yeah, these offseason program have gotten out of hand. We do not need you here all of this time. We do not have to kill you guys on the practice field and get guys hurt.’ It seems like the coaches are at least aware of the issues at hand. If we want to talk about success, I think this is the first time in a long time players felt like they actually had a choice. I think we created an environment that allowed guys to make a clear, honest decision of whether they should. That is the real question. A lot of people talk about, ‘What was this about?’ I think the question everybody has to ask themselves as players, ‘Is this worth your time to volunteer to come to these practices?’ Early on, it was COVID was an issue and still is an issue. The protocols were not in a good spot for players. They were going to be too burdensome on the players. Then it comes to is it worth my rest, my recovery, where I like working out and being with my family, is it worth leaving those things to come to the facility? We had some guys who said yes and some guys who said no, but that is the decision that every player should be able to make because it is a voluntary program. I would think it was successful. I think this is going to continue because if I am one of the teams that agreed to only going for two weeks, I can’t imagine next year if the coach said we are going to do nine weeks that they are going to like that idea. If I was a player who did not go in and like last year felt really good all season and felt like I had less miles on the tires, I do not see that really changing. I think the teams that went in and did not negotiate and did not make changes, we have seen a handful of those teams violate the CBA, and I think those players are now realizing that unless they are getting some assurances from their clubs, they probably should not go anymore. I think that is a reminder for those teams of what OTAs are like when you do not have an agreement with your teams that they are going to take care of you. If in the end for the next nine years it is going to be 32 teams doing 32 different things but they are all better than what is in the CBA, I think that is great for players.”



On if he believes players should have a ‘say-so’ in how training camp practices are structured and potentially be lighter:

“I think that is something that we as a union are working with the NFL on and learning from what we did last year. I think a lot of that science is pretty clear that we can continue to build and be better in training camp and ramp up the right way. I think the ramp up [period] that we had last year was very successful, and I think the joint panel of our experts agree with that and that the ramp, both in duration and intensity, is an important aspect. I think we continue to build on that. Again, the injury issue gets put into a player-issue only, but the teams want their players healthy, the fans want their player healthy and obviously, the players want to be healthy. It is something that we should all be working on to make sure guys can play at a high level both this year and into the future for as long as they feel like it and not get worn out and get down before they should be.”


On if the NFLPA needed an instance like COVID to help prove the need for a different approach to the offseason and if there is enough data to prove the philosophy about injury rate and OTAs:

“I think players in general knew that the offseason programs were getting out of hand and the intensity was being ramped up and becoming more and more dangerous. I think what COVID did was allow us to see and/or feel what the change would be like. The data, I think, reflects that we were healthier last year, but I also think when we talk about sample size, you have to take into account – I know it is not great – anecdotal evidence, too, where I think most of the guys when you think of last year and all of the things we had to do to deal with COVID – like the rest of the world – and how much of a mental and physical drain of the protocols, the rules and that every day anxiousness, and for the vast majority of our players to still leave last season after all of that and be like, ‘Honestly, I still feel mentally and physically fresher after that season,’ you have to take into account that is how players are feeling. Even if you only have one year of statistics on a lighter offseason, the players know how their bodies feel. We are very in tune with that. When the vast majority are saying that little wear and tear that we get rid of by getting rid of the offseason that makes our bodies feel significantly better by the end of the season, that is good, and that is what we fight for.”


On changes the Browns made to the offseason program and player negotiations with Head Coach Kevin Stefanski about them:

“I think what we did really well is we had really good communication throughout, both player to player and coach to player. I would not really classify anything as a ‘negotiation’ with what we did. Kevin came to us with his plan laid out. We had never had an offseason with Kevin so we did not know how Kevin usually holds an offseason program. Kevin laid out a plan, especially to the leadership and the older players asking questions just for clarifications. After that, we let everybody know that this was a decision that each individual player was going to make – we are not making or we are not telling anybody that they can’t go; we are not telling anybody they have to go – this is a voluntary program, and like I said earlier, you make the decision on what you feel is right. We made it clear to everybody when we get back here in person for mandatory stuff, you have to be ready to go. If you feel like you are going to be more ready to go by staying where you are, training where you are and doing it on your own time, then do that because that is better for the team. If you feel like you want to be in the building doing things here and that is what is going to get you ready to go when we get to mandatory stuff, then do that. There was no – I do not think – pressure to do either. It was just do what you think is in your best interest, and that was it. We know the type of guy Kevin is and this organization so we knew he was not going to kill us; he was going to have a pretty good program put into place. Once we saw it, it was just each person’s decision under the CBA to volunteer to go or volunteer not to go.”


On if had any issues with players who decided to attend the voluntary offseason program after the players released a statement about exercising their right not to attend:

“No. A bunch of guys reached out to me just to talk through it, and I told them, ‘This is your decision. I am here if you have any questions. If you feel like it is in your best interest to be there, be there.’ I do not think there was any pressure, and I am definitely not mad at anybody for coming. I think we laid that out very clearly. We had our own calls with just players where we could talk about it just as a group, and we made it really clear that we are a team and there are no hard feelings either way. For the guys that came in and for the guys who stayed away, there should be no hard feelings for the guys who stayed away, and vice versa, the guys who came in should not be upset that guys stayed away. This is each person is making a decision that they feel is going to make them the best player, and if we all make that decision and all come back as the best players possible, then the team is better because of it.”


On a CDC calling for a meeting about myocarditis in young men and the message to players about the vaccine:

“I have not seen that or I am not sure if I have seen the exact CDC memo that you are talking about. I did see one that I think still said that they would strongly advise everybody to get the vaccine. I am not sure if that is the same memo. I would have to read the [memo]. Those are the things that I unfortunately had to learn more about this virus and the study of it than I probably would have ever wanted to, but I am not the expert. That is why if there are guys with questions, I would direct them to Thom Mayer to answer those because I am not one to speak about the science or anything like that. That is well beyond my paygrade or expertise.”


On a study stating some individuals who had COVID-19 and recovered are potentially not receiving a discernable additional benefit for getting the vaccine and the message to players about the vaccine and COVID-19 protocols:

“Again, I would have to read that, and still even if I did read that, I would definitely check with our medical experts on the best way they feel to handle that. I have not read that study so I think it is tough for me to make a decision or recommendation off of that hypothetical scenario. I would have to get back to you.”


On T Jedrick Wills Jr. sharing several of the Browns OL members convened for workouts this offseason and if he has done that in the past:

“We worked out together. A lot of it was just lifting and some drills. It was normally what we would do in the offseason anyways. I was out in San Diego for the last two weeks. (G Joel) Bitonio was out there with me. That is usually where I spend my offseason as is so I went out there to work out and get to the beach a little bit. A lot of it is just for my personal decision on the matter, I know if I go to OTAs at this point, there are really only two things that could happen – No. 1, I am going to have more wear and tear on my joints, which is not great for me; and No. 2, I have an increased likelihood for a season-ending injury by practicing right now. Both of those things are not good for me and I would say not good for the team with either of those. I have been somebody who has never felt that OTAs have been helpful for me in any part of my career. Taking away the injury I had during it, when you are in shorts and a t-shirt, I think your fundamentals slip more than your fundamentals develop as an offensive lineman because you can’t really put your shoulder into anybody or your are going to get clipped by a facemask so you play high, the defense is able to grab your jersey and pull you and you have nothing to hold onto since they do not have shoulder pads so I think it is not a realistic game-like scenario. I always have felt worse leaving the offseason program, both physically and with my fundamentals, than entering the offseason program. For me, it was a fairly easy decision if I know that I am going to be more banged up leaving and I have a higher likelihood of getting hurt and I do not think I am going to get much benefit when it comes to fundamentals going through it, there is not much to gain when I can train, I can get stronger and I can actually train longer when I am not practicing every day and I can go work out longer and do more things to come back in better shape.”


On if he was able to play Torrey Pines Golf Course in US Open conditions in San Diego:

“I did not, but I would be incapable of it and I would not subject myself to the disaster if I was out there (laughter).”


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