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Many Falcons players will opt out of 2021 voluntary offseason program

They join other teams in the NFL who are choosing not to participate in the workouts.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

With the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting the NFL, many of the Atlanta Falcons players have said they’ll not participate in this year’s voluntary offseason program.

The players put out a statement via the NFLPA Friday.

The statement reads: Many of our players will decide to exercise their right to not attend the voluntary offseason program. That right is afforded to every player through our CBA. While our team is not unanimous, we respect the decisions of every player across the league and will remain professional in our approach to the game. Injury data and game performance from last year show that a virtual offseason is beneficial to player health and safety. In addition, many of our players feel unsafe entering the facility as COVID protocols remain unclear.

The Falcons are one of 11 teams so far who have opted out of the voluntary offseason, joining the Broncos, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Patriots (some), Lions, Bears, Browns, Giants, Raiders, Steelers, says CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones.

Our sister site Pats Pulpit outlined how the modified NFL offseason will go this year, with the first slate of activities beginning Monday, April 19, through May 14, with Phase 1: Four weeks instead of two; no in-person meetings or on-field activity; voluntary weight room workouts with up to 10 players present; no more than 20 players in the facility at the same time.

The NFLPA has recommended players not participate in Phase 1 or 2, which will take place May 17-21.

Per Pats Pulpit, Phase 2 will go as follows: One week instead of three; on-field workouts without restriction as agreed upon in the CBA (e.g. no contact or live tackling); all coaches permitted on the field; meetings and classroom instruction on a virtual basis; no more than four hours of activity per day; no more than two hours of activity per day.

OTAs are scheduled to begin right now on May 24 through June 18, which would normally be a valuable time for a team like the Falcons acclimating to a new coaching staff. If better protocols for COVID-19 are not accepted upon by the players, it does not look like many Falcons will participate right now.

Though, with COVID-19 vaccines making more headway to curb pandemic effects and the NFL requiring all employees without medical or religious excuse to get the vaccine, it’s entirely possible that, by July, training camp will go off without a hitch. But everything up to that, including June’s mandatory minicamp as Pats Pulpit notes, should be up in the air as of now unless the NFL and the players agree to a different way of running the offseason.