Ja'Wuan James' season-ending injury has had a ripple affect across the NFL. The league specifically mentioned James in a memo Tuesday that encouraged teams to remind their players of the benefits of working out at team facilities. James, who opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, suffered a torn Achilles injury this week while working out from home.
Because it has been designated as a "non-football injury," the memo states that the Broncos have "no contractual obligation" to pay the offensive tackle his $10 million salary for the 2021 season, as the injury took place outside the team's facility. The memo went on to say that, had the injury taken place inside Denver's facility, the team would have to pay James' salary.
The NFL Players Association responded with an e-mail that was sent to the players. In the e-email, union officials essentially told players to hold their ground as it relates to working out outside of team facilities.
"It was gutless to use a player's serious injury as a scare tactic to get you to come running back to these workouts," the NFLPA wrote in the e-mail, via ESPN's Jeff Legwold. "This memo is another sign of what they think of you and also affirms that they simply want to control you year-round in any and every way that they can.
"We have been in touch with Ja'Wuan James. Despite an open threat of an 'NFI' designation, Ja'Wuan was working out to stay in shape under a program recommended to him by his coach."
The Broncos were the first team to publicly announce their decision to not participate in offseason workouts on April 13, with a slew of other teams following suit. In their statement announcing their intention to sit out offseason workouts, the Broncos pointed to the ongoing pandemic as the reason they will not be attending. The Broncos' statement also pointed to the success of the 2020 NFL regular season when making their argument for a second virtual offseason.
"Despite having a completely virtual offseason last year, the quality of play across the NFL was better than ever by almost every measure," the Broncos statement read. "We hope players across the NFL work with our union as we did to get all the facts so every player can make an informed decision."
On the heels of the NFLPA and various teams' statements, the NFL released an overview of their offseason program on April 14. The first phase (April 19 to May 14) has consisted of virtual meetings, no on-field drills or work with coaches and the facility along with weight room capacity will remain in place. The second phase (May 17-21) adds full speed on-field drills with coaches into the mix, albeit with no contact. The third phase (May 24 to June 18) includes traditional OTAs and mandatory minicamp.