Peloton for pay? NFL players will earn offseason bonuses in virtual workouts

Charles Robinson
NFL columnist

The NFL may be resisting contingency plans for the start of the regular season, but at least one staple of the league’s offseason schedule apparently can’t wait any longer: Workout bonuses.

The league is in the midst of trying to create an online infrastructure that would allow players to earn their offseason workout bonuses, two NFL sources told Yahoo Sports. That would resolve a pressing issue for players who have contracts containing lucrative offseason bonuses for workouts and haven’t been able to earn them because of the league’s COVID-19 safety measures.

Pro Football Talk first reported that the NFL has been troubleshooting the issue as players remain locked out of team facilities. The league sources who spoke with Yahoo Sports said the NFL is currently dealing with a unique problem stemming from technology: How to make the process universal between teams that have the online and analytics infrastructures to stage workouts in virtual reality, versus others that don’t.

“One of the biggest problems is how to keep it from being a competitive advantage for some teams,” one league source told Yahoo Sports. “Some of these teams are in the Stone Age with their technology. Others are more advanced with their analytics and ability to do things virtually with players. So [the league] has to come up with some kind of system that works for everyone, to keep it from being an advantage for some teams.”

Teddy Bridgewater signed a deal with the Carolina Panthers that includes a workout bonus that he has not yet been able to earn because of the NFL's COVID-19 safety measures. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

A second league source suggested the NFL’s system could be something similar to what online exercise companies like Peloton, Mirror and others do for their customers through the use of online apps, virtual workout classes and heart-monitoring equipment.

While the league likely doesn’t have the time to set up complicated infrastructure, the NFL can ultimately dictate universal methods for meeting workout thresholds. This would allow players to earn bonuses in a way that doesn’t leave teams setting their own standards (which might make it harder for some players to earn bonuses depending on which team they play for).

“It just has to be something universal for everyone,” the second source said. “We can’t have some players being asked to do something in one place that isn’t being applied in another. The standards have to be the same for everybody involved — all the teams and all the players.”

Once that structure is created and agreed upon by both the NFL and the NFL Players Association, it will allow players to begin earning their bonuses. That’s good for guys like the Carolina Panthers’ Teddy Bridgewater, whose new deal with that franchise includes a $250,000 workout bonus. Thus far, players haven’t been allowed to earn any of that money — nor have they been paid the standard $235 per diem that is distributed to players who are participating in a franchise’s offseason program.

The window for some of the league’s offseason programs was slated to open Monday for franchises with new head coaches — including the Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Redskins. But because of the suspension of offseason activity in COVID-19 measures, the start of organized team activities has been shut down. New head coaches can’t hand out their playbooks or begin implementing aspects of the installations.

“The hope is to get something resolved by the middle of this week,” a league source said. “There has to be an agreement [between the NFL and NFLPA] before any of the offseason things can get started. That’s what everyone is working on right now. We’re just taking this all week by week and working it out as we go.”

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