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Dallas Cowboys report for voluntary workouts as others plan to skip offseason program

Clarence E. Hill Jr.

Unlike many players around the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys players are not opting out of the voluntary workouts and showed up in large numbers at The Star in Frisco for Phase 1 of the offseason program, which officially began on Monday.

The NFL Players Association has advised its membership to skip the in-person voluntary workouts due to safety concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Players from 20 teams have released statements through the NFLPA saying that they would be exercising their right to not attend the workouts.

The Cowboys did meet about it. As of now, they have decided not to opt-out as a team.

“We all know it’s voluntary,” vice president Stephen Jones said Monday on his radio show on 105.3 The Fan. “That is strictly up to the players. Our players have talked at length about it. We have a lot of guys out here working out. It’s a great environment to work here. We do it in a safe way. We want to provide them with a great opportunity to get better.”

The Cowboys have always had a strong participation in the offseason program because many of the players live in the area.

The players also have a bad taste in their mouths from last season’s 6-10 campaign. Many of the struggles on defense were attributed to the lack of an offseason program.

Also, many of the players have money in their contracts tied to the offseason workouts. The Cowboys are one of the teams that have workout de-escalators that reduce a player’s in-season salary if they fail to attend the workout program.

Quarterback Dak Prescott, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, receiver Amari Cooper, running back Ezekiel Elliott, linebacker Jaylon Smith, guard Zack Martin and tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins could have to forfeit $500,000 each from their base salaries.

That number is $250,000 for tight end Blake Jarwin, linebacker Tarell Basham and cornerbacks Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis. Defensive end Randy Gregory would forfeit his $180,000 offseason workout bonus if he took part in the boycott. Five others have de-escalators of $100,000 or less.

The NFLPA will not force teams with a significant number of players with salary tied to offseason workouts or bonuses to take part in the league-wide opt-out.

“Players have the right to make their own decisions about what to do,” NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said. “We are never going to stand in the way of a player making a financial decision about what he should or shouldn’t do.”

The NFL Players Association had lobbied the league to make all offseason work virtual until training camp as it did last season.

The NFL didn’t release details of the offseason program until last week.

The first phase runs through May 14. It includes virtual meetings for two hours per day at the club’s direction, conditioning and weight room work, yet prohibits on-field drills or work with coaches.

The second phase from May 17-21 will include on-field drills with coaches, performed at a teaching pace with no contact allowed.

The third and final phase of the program will include 10 days of traditional practices at full speed (but without contact), in-person or virtual meetings.

All portions of the offseason program are “voluntary” except for a mandatory minicamp to conclude the third phase.

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