• Geoff Castaneda

Swept Under the Rug: How the 49ers’ Absence from OTAs Will Impact the Team


Photo Credit: San Francisco 49ers






In the midst of all the pre-draft madness, a very important announcement was overlooked. The NFLPA, on behalf of the 49ers players, posted a press release via their Twitter account announcing that players have decided to skip some, or possibly all phases, of voluntary in-person workouts. The NFLPA cited ongoing concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and noted the decision was made in the best interest of the players, their families, and a commitment to performing at the highest level come the fall. While it remains to be seen which players will be absent from OTAs, there are several ways this will affect the team.



Learning Curve

Photo Credit: San Francisco 49ers



Being an NFL rookie is tough enough on its own. The increase in mental and physical demands have been documented by many players when given the opportunity to reflect on their introductory season in the league. OTAs allow newly selected players time to learn the playbook and adapt their bodies for a full (now 17 game) season. If the incoming rookie class decides to follow their veteran teammates in opting-out, they are likely to find themselves fighting an uphill battle throughout their freshman season.



Job Opportunities

Photo Credit: USA Today



Speaking of the rookies, there are a few who enter the offseason in position to challenge veterans for starting roles. The first, and most obvious, is Trey Lance. Kyle Shanahan downplayed the No. 3 overall pick’s chances of unseating Jimmy Garoppolo this season. However, with full participation in OTAs, Lance could put himself within reach of becoming QB1 by the end of training camp. Aaron Banks should provide competition for Daniel Brunskill and could push the 2020 starting right guard to the second-string rotation. Trey Sermon’s name has steadily generated buzz since he was selected with the 88th overall pick. The 49ers have a crowded running back room with the likes of veterans Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., Wayne Gallman, JaMycal Hasty, and Austin Walter. We’ve heard Raheem Mostert’s name rumored on the trade block and it’s worth noting he request a trade before the 2020 season.If Mostert, or fringe players like Wilson and Hasty,no-show for OTAs they could find themselves off the roster before the start of the 2021 season.



Familiarity

Photo Credit: USA Today



Unless you’re the 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you’re bound to have some significant changes to the roster. The grind of voluntary workouts generates camaraderie amongst teammates and coaches alike. Quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance will need to familiarize themselves with the new weapons on offense and the big men in the trenches will look to gel as a cohesive unit. Most importantly, the coaches and front office typically get their first evaluation at the strengths and weaknesses of the club before the pads even go on. Without a full offseason program, the 49ers could be behind the eight-ball in terms of player development and evaluation.



Playing the Devil’s Advocate

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.



It’s hard to fault players for wanting to stay close to home amid a global pandemic. Many have their own offseason conditioning programs and do a fantastic job staying in shape throughout the year. COVID-19 forced players to undergo constant testing and isolate from their loved ones in 2020. Their hesitancy to put another quarter in that merry-go-round is understandable. Things get a bit messy when fans begin to question players’ commitment to the team. As fans, we want the best possible outcome for every season. From an outside perspective it seems like every workout, meeting, and practice are vital to a championship run. The announcement of players skipping an entire portion of the offseason program is sure to sound some alarms. Nonetheless, it is important to remember these players are choosing to sacrifice financially for what they believe is best for their health and safety. Of course, they are also inviting the risk of their salaries being voided if they miss the season due to injury sustained outside of voluntary workouts. We’ve seen the long term health effects of professional football highly publicized in recent years. In my opinion, if the roster is willing to make the financial sacrifice to stay home for a few workouts, I’m all in favor.



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