For the past two months, JC Tretter’s duties as an NFL player have extended far beyond his work in the trenches as a starting center for the Browns.
Tretter, an eight-year veteran, has served as president of the NFL Players Association since early March, when he underwent a rigorous interviewing process and needed to earn the votes by the board of player representatives to earn the title.
The position requires Tretter to be the leading voice of all NFL players in everything dealing with wages, hours and working conditions, among other responsibilities. The role is a proper fit for Tretter, who has a labor relations degree from Cornell.
"I've always wanted to get more involved," Tretter said Tuesday in a Zoom video call with local reporters. "As I became more comfortable with my day job of being a professional football player and as I've gotten older, I've wanted to get more and more involved, especially coming from that (college) background."
On the NFLPA executive board, Tretter works with several other NFL veterans — Falcons center Alex Mack, Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell, Saints punter Thomas Morstead, and 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman are a few of his board peers — to represent all NFL players. Five days after Tretter was elected, the executive board helped the league approve a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that extends to 2030.
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Tretter made the decision to run for president, which was up for re-election after Eric Winston, an offensive tackle who spent six years at the position, retired from the league. In addition to his normal offseason duties with the Browns, Tretter has been at the forefront in helping the league resolve some of its biggest questions of the offseason, including the new CBA deal and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There's still plenty of work left, but as NFLPA president, Tretter feels humbled to be the representative in charge of tackling what always appears to be an endless to-do list.
"It's an honor to be elected by your peers for anything, but this is a role I'm passionate about," Tretter said. "Just being able to help the current players and look after them, as well as the guys who are going to come after us and the guys who came before us is something I am really interested in."
One of Tretter's biggest duties over the last several weeks has been assisting players through the virtual offseason program, created so players and coaches can continue to communicate and practice from remote locations during the pandemic. So far, everything has gone smoothly for the league — it completed its first ever virtual draft in April, and all new and returning players have been communicating through video platforms to acclimate to a new season.
That'll be the norm for the NFL until June 26, when the virtual offseason program is set to end. What lies beyond that is unknown, and Tretter has his sights focused on how he can help the league's players on a more short-term timeline.
"I've really tried to live in two-week increments and in making sure the virtual offseason negotiations are done," Tretter said. "A good plan in place has been important for us so that way we've got a plan set for all of our players. We've got a lot of guys, and all those questions have been answered. Our guys know what they have to do and what their job looks like on a day-to-day basis through then. That's been good just to get that out of the way and give everybody a little piece of mind."
Tretter's knowledge, of course, is of benefit to the Browns, too, and he's been using it to assist rookies in making the gargantuan-sized leap from college football to the pros.
That transition will certainly be more difficult without on-field practice. Tretter realizes that, and he's been there to answer questions about all playbook-related questions and show the way for new offensive line additions in first-round pick Jedrick Wills Jr., fifth-round C Nick Harris and undrafted free agents Drake Dorbeck and Alex Taylor.
"That is my role" Tretter said. "My role is to help the guys in the room, make sure they are comfortable and make sure they know they have guys looking out for them, I'll be an asset for them and will help them with whatever they need. Obviously, it's a weird time with everything being virtual, so I just make myself available to them."
That's the most Tretter can do right now. It's not easy to juggle NFLPA president duties while preparing to be a starting center, but Tretter has been the jack-of-all-trades so far, and he won't stop — even when the league returns to normal activities.
"I'm always there to answer questions," Tretter said. "When anybody has questions about the way I see the game or the way I play, I'm always available."