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JC Tretter: It is time to change the offseason

Browns center and NFLPA President says lessons from COVID-19 season should be carried into the future.

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter was on the front line this season in his role as president of the NFL Players Association as the union and league worked to keep the game going during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now Tretter says that some of the lessons that were learned this season, especially in regards to the offseason program, should be carried forward since they did not impact the quality of play on the field.

Tretter published a letter on the union’s website on Thursday advocating for the elimination of the league’s offseason practices, which would include the various minicamps and organized team activities that are held in the late spring. He bases his argument on the fact that teams were forced to scrap the traditional offseason this year due to COVID-19 and everyone from players to coaches were able to adapt.

This year has brought less time at practice than ever before. We had no offseason practices, fewer training camp practices and no preseason games. While some feared that those changes would lead to a sloppy 2020 NFL season, our collective level of play across the league has actually never been higher.

I believe the changes implemented this season have demonstrated that we can put an entertaining product out on the field while further reducing wear and tear on our players’ bodies. Sloppy play would usually be evident with low-scoring games, a high number of penalties and more missed tackles - all things that have historically been attributed to insufficient practice time to hone our fundamentals. But we have seen the exact opposite this year, with points per game at an all-time high, a decreased number of penalties and even fewer missed tackles compared to last year.

Tretter goes on to point out that the NFL is the only major professional sports league to hold an offseason training program, even though it is also the one that puts the most physical demand on the bodies of its players.

Tretter makes some interesting points, ones that are actually backed up by the play of the Browns this season. Cleveland made it through the year without the benefit of minicamps, OTAs and preseason games all with a rookie head coach in Kevin Stefanski, and are now sitting at 10-5 and on the verge of their first playoff appearance since 2002.

Having just one year under the current system may not provide enough data for the league office, owners and coaches to see it the same way as Tretter, but it will be interesting to see if any of the changes that Tretter is advocating for on behalf of the players come about in the years to come.