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Friday's NFL: Brady, Rodgers headline list of NFL players skipping OTAs

By Josh Dubow
Associated Press

Tampa, Fla. — Tom Brady earned the right to skip voluntary workouts a long time ago. Several other star players, including Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson, also aren’t participating in organized team activities, a trend that’s increasing around the NFL.

In Brady’s case, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are thrilled the seven-time Super Bowl champion is playing another season after a brief retirement in February.

Seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady will join Fox sports as its lead football analyst once his playing career ends, the network said on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. When that actually happens is unclear, since Brady recently renounced his announced retirement and said he plans to continue playing for the Tampa Bay Bucs.

“Tom’s a worker. Tom comes in on his own. He doesn’t need to be here,” Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles said about Brady’s absence. “But, you don’t play that long without having inner drive. We have great communication and we have a great relationship. He comes in on his own and works. He doesn’t need the work everyone else needs, but the camaraderie, when he comes in here, is very good.”

While their teams were on the field, Rodgers and Brady were involved in another competition Wednesday, taking on fellow quarterbacks Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes in “The Match” golf exhibition in Las Vegas.

Rodgers skipped all the OTAs and Green Bay’s minicamp last year during a standoff with team management but won his second straight NFL MVP award and signed a $150 million contract in the offseason. He lost his All-Pro receiver when the Packers traded away Davante Adams and it would seem he’d benefit from additional work with new receivers.

“Yeah, each guy has that right to make that choice,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said about Rodgers and several teammates, including wide receivers Allen Lazard and Sammy Watkins, missing OTAs.

“If you’re asking me, I want everybody here. So, I think some of the thought process may have changed over what’s transpired over the last two years, especially with our COVID situation where we didn’t have OTAs, and then, but my thing to our guys is, well neither did anybody else. So everybody was playing, had the same circumstances that they were dealing with. So, obviously now, with everybody being open and you’d like to see as many guys as possible here.”

The pandemic forced teams to hold virtual workouts during the 2020 offseason and the NFL Players’ Association advised players to skip modified OTAs last year. The union, in general, wants to decrease the amount of OTAs, but that will have to be negotiated in the next collective bargaining agreement.

Brady, who turns 45 in August, began skipping OTAs in New England in 2018 so he could spend more time with his family. Other players are staying home for business reasons.

Kyler Murray missed some of Arizona’s voluntary sessions while he still waits for a new contract but returned this week. Teammate DeAndre Hopkins is suspended for the first six games of the season so he’s not participating.

Arizona Cardinals' Kyler Murray (1) participates during the team's NFL football practice, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Tempe, Ariz.

Jackson also has an unsettled contract situation and has been absent but indicated on Twitter last week that he plans to show up at some point.

“Our job as coaches is to develop everybody to their fullest, and when they’re here we can do that,” Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “That’s what we’re focused on right now. I’m sure Lamar is working hard.”

More than 20 teams are holding OTA sessions next week and mandatory minicamp the following while several wrap up next week. The Bengals and Eagles opted to eliminate mandatory camps.

“We are transitioning away a little bit more from 11-on-11s this year,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “We have two weeks of OTAs and look forward to getting a lot of good work done with our individual, where we can work on our fundamentals. Then we’ll be doing 7-on-7 because it helps our skill guys and quarterback in making the read and different looks he’s going to get.”

A list of the most notable OTA absences around the league:

Rams DT Aaron Donald and CB Jalen Ramsey; Titans RB Derrick Henry; 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, DE Nick Bosa and LT Trent Williams; Chargers RB Austin Ekeler; Browns DE Jadeveon Clowney and LG Joel Bitonio; Saints WR Jarvis Landry, RB Alvin Kamara and LB Demario Davis; Patriots LB Matt Judon; Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson and CB Casey Hayward; Bengals S Jessie Bates III; Chiefs LT Orlando Brown Jr.; Bills S Jordan Poyer and S Micah Hyde; Broncos RB Melvin Gordon III; Commanders WR Terry McLaurin.

Seven-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack retires after 13 years

Santa Clara, Calif. — Seven-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack is retiring after 13 years in the NFL, leaving a major hole in the middle of the offensive line for the San Francisco 49ers.

The 36-year-old Mack announced his retirement on Friday in a move the Niners had been bracing for this offseason.

The 36-year-old Alex Mack announced his retirement on Friday in a move the 49ers had been bracing for this offseason.

“I am so grateful to the game of football and everything it has given me,” Mack said in a statement posted on his Twitter account. “From the very start it helped shape who I am and taught me life lessons. I started to play football because it was fun and that never changed.”

Mack thanked the “dedicated fan bases” in San Francisco, Atlanta and Cleveland where he spent his career, the coaches who “tolerated my stubbornness,” his teammates, his opponents and his family and friends.

“This is really more a ‘thank you’ than ‘goodbye,’” he said. “From draft night to the final whistle, I will carry these special memories, and each of these treasured relationships with me into my next chapter.”

Mack was one of the most consistent performers since being drafted 21st overall out of California by the Browns in 2009.

He became an immediate starter as a rookie, made his first Pro Bowl in his second season, was a second-team All-Pro three times and finished his career as a Pro Bowler in his only season in San Francisco.

“We would like to thank Alex for all that he brought to the 49ers throughout the 2021 season,” general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan said in a statement. “The center position in the NFL is the heartbeat of an offense and Alex’s intellect, consistency, love for the game and professional approach made a lasting impression over the course of his 13 NFL seasons. Congratulations to Alex on a highly decorated NFL career and we wish him nothing but success in his post-playing career.”

Mack started every game in 11 of his 13 seasons, missing only 11 games in 2014 with the Browns and two in 2020 with the Falcons. He was named to Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s.

His retirement leaves a void on San Francisco’s line that already had to replace left guard Laken Tomlinson, who signed with the Jets in free agency.

Despite the strong possibility Mack wouldn’t be back, the Niners didn’t sign a center in free agency or draft one.

Jake Brendel, who has three starts since entering the league in 2016, has been filling that spot in offseason workouts. Daniel Brunskill, who started at right guard for San Francisco last season, has experience at center or the Niners could look to sign a veteran like J.C. Tretter, who was released by the Browns in March.