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Reporting to NFL Training Camp Explained: Holding Out or Holding In?

Reporting to NFL Training Camp Explained: Holding Out or Holding In?

“Breaking news” and “This just in” are phrases that continue to swirl around the football world during a time between the NFL Draft and the start of NFL preseason, even though that time period has historically been uneventful.

Why is that? Because players continue to hold out from OTAs, minicamps, and training camps as more and more players threaten holdouts every year if their contract demands are not met.

Last year’s training camp proved to be a spicy topic of conversation as many players either refused to attend or attended but refused to participate — doing what is now referred to as holding in. Players such as Aaron Rogers, Xavien Howard and Stephon Gilmore held out last summer. With this summer’s contractual climate, forecasters are predicting heavy storms regarding holdouts. The NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) has a few things to say about these actions.

For the uninitiated, the 2020 CBA holds that training camp includes the entire period from the mandatory training camp reporting date for any player through the Sunday immediately preceding the first game of the NFL regular season. Furthermore, a first-year player is a referred to as a player who has not completed one season and a veteran is a player who has completed one or more seasons. If a Club’s first regular season game is on a Thursday or a Sunday, all veteran players excluding quarterbacks and injured players are to report to training camp 47 days before the start of the season. Subsequently, for Clubs with their first game of the season on a Monday night, veterans are to report to training camp 48 days prior.

A mandatory fine of $50,000 per day is issued to all veteran players under contract for unexcused late reporting or absences from training camp. That figure decreases to $40,000 for drafted players still playing under their rookie contracts.  In the previous CBA, these fines were just $30,000 respectively. This is a 67% increase for veterans who choose to hold out. Players signed as Unrestricted Free Agents or first round rookies playing on their fifth-year option will also be fined one week’s salary for each preseason game missed.

These fines must be issued in the event of a hold out without much room for negotiation or opportunity for the fine to be waived by Clubs as previously allowed by the 2011 CBA. Teams can only forgive these fines for players on rookie contracts. These harsh fines differ from the previous CBA as they are far more restrictive. Holding out for the entirety of training camp would cost a veteran player more than $2 million.

2011 CBA 2020 CBA
$30,000 fine per day $50,000 fine per day for veterans; $40,000 fine per day for players on rookie contracts
Teams may reduce or forgive fines for all players Teams may only reduce or forgive fines for players on rookie contracts; mandatory for players on veteran contracts
Fine for players who sign contracts as unrestricted free agents or first-round picks playing under their fifth-year option

equal to 1 week’s base salary for each preseason game missed

This summer’s hold out and hold in candidates include Terry McLaurin, DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, Dalton Schultz, and Jessie Bates, among others. Buffalo Bills’ Safety Jordan Poyer reported to his Club’s minicamp but has expressed desire for a new contract. If Poyer’s demands are not met, he could shift to the hold out list for training camps. Samuel and Schultz have both reported to camp, however Deebo will hold in while Schultz’s status is still up in the air.

Bates III has been vocal about refusing to play on the franchise tag and it would be a surprise if he participated without a new contract. Interestingly enough, as long as he does not sign his franchise tender, he will not see these mandatory fines for holding out due to the fact that he is technically not under contract with a team and therefore not subject to the league’s CBA.

With all the controversy from last year regarding training camp, only time will answer the question of who will take the financial penalty in the hopes of receiving a big contract before the start of the season.

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