The Cleveland Browns are in an awkward position. Head coach Kevin Stefanski probably wants as much practice time this year for his team as possible. After all, football is more about being prepared than arguably any other sport. Stefanski’s starting center, J.C. Tretter, is advocating for players to boycott all OTA and mini-camps due to the pandemic. This possibly sets them up as opposing ideologies.
Just so we’re abundantly clear, no one knows how Stefanski feels about not having OTA’s or no mini-camps. He may be ok with it either way. Regardless, this will not be a situation that splits the Browns.
Why? Because both men are professional.
In a column for the NFLPA website, Tretter, who’s the NFLPA president, spoke about how not having OTA’s and mini-camps reduced overall injuries, and no pre-season games also reduced concussions heavily.
"Over the past five years, the average number of missed-time injuries annually for all NFL teams was 3,524. For the 2020 season, the number of missed time injuries decreased to 2,716. …If we’ve identified strategies for reducing concussions by 30% and it doesn’t involve modifying game rules, it would be reckless NOT to implement those changes."
Tretter also spoke about how the NFL isn’t the final arbiter on when the pandemic is truly done.
"The NFL doesn’t get to decide when the pandemic is over or when we get to stop caring about COVID. COVID is still out there. Our players do not want to catch it still. There are plenty of guys who have talked about issues that they felt for a long time after catching COVID. Myles [Garrett] being one of them. He talked about it all year, about how he felt that it was still bothering him."
One would think with Tretter making such a stance that the Browns would be in trouble, but that won’t be an issue for this team. While it very much feels like coaches and players are going to be on different sides of the issue, one thing we saw from Stefanaski last year was his ability to handle situations without allowing emotions to dictate his reaction.
Stefanski probably wants every practice possible, but Stefanski is a man whose entire image is one of mutual respect. He doesn’t seem like a guy who’s going to turn a disagreement into a situation. Maybe he doesn’t like the notion of no OTAs, maybe he does, but either way, if the players decide they don’t want to be there, Stefanski will respect that.
Or at least, we hope he will.
Tretter and Stefanski are both classy guys, and on any other team, this could be an issue that could tear a team apart. Yet, Tretter and Stefanski seem like the type of leaders everyone would be willing to follow. Together, they’ll hopefully show the NFL and sports as a whole that you can succeed together, even if you aren’t on the same side of the issues.