NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s that time of year we look at the word “voluntary,” understand it’s meaning, use it in a sentence, say it aloud and then completely ignore it.
As teams across the NFL begin phase one of offseason workouts, they are considered voluntary. Some players might have workout bonuses written into contracts to incentivize attendance, but no one is being monetarily penalized for not showing up.
And yet, players are optically penalized.
One of the NFL’s most powerful news-breakers, Adam Schefter, went as far as to release a report about notable wide receivers not attending off-season workouts while they seek new deals from their respective teams. The Titans own A.J. Brown is one of those players, according to his report.
So, if Brown’s absence is deemed worthy of a report, worthy of speculation and worthy of a negotiation tactic, then the same attention will also be afforded to the absence of the team’s starting quarterback.
Ryan Tannehill did not speak to media on day one of the offseason training program (Ben Jones, David Long Jr., Elijah Molden, Kevin Byard and Austin Hooper did), and his new tight end — who he has yet to work with in person — indicated he is not in attendance.
“Until he gets here, I’m going to let him enjoy time with his family,” said Hooper. “I’m going to get in shape and learn my teammates.”
Is it absolutely vital football-wise that Ryan Tannehill be available for on-field conditioning and in-person meetings in April? Probably not.
Would it have helped him in the court of public opinion to be present and acknowledge a need to put in extra work this offseason coming off a three-interception meltdown in the playoffs? Probably.
Does it mean he’s not putting in extra work? Also, probably not.
This is about optics. Fans are left wanting more accountability from their starting quarterback. Also, maybe some want closure by way of a public acknowledgement that he has to be better. Not the team, not the offense, him.
Does Tannehill not saying this aloud mean he doesn’t know it himself? No.
But does it help ease the minds of digital pitchfork-wielding fans? Yes.
There are a handful of veterans and leaders who aren’t in attendance, but none whose spotlight is brighter than that of the quarterback. And, a quarterback whose lasting image in the eyes of fans is not a flattering one.
Optics don’t help you win football games, but they do help you win fans. For Tannehill, the latter is vanishing by the day, but it doesn’t become a real problem unless the former starts disappearing, too.