INDIANAPOLIS – On Sunday, an avalanche of tweets from NFL players poured out over social media. The coordinated message was clear: They wanted to play the 2020 season, but the NFL had not done enough yet to ensure their safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“(The NFL and the players association) largely have been in discussions and negotiations for months,” says national NFL reporter for The Athletic Lindsay Jones, “even though it does somewhat appear like they’ve waited till the last minute.”
“The league has had time on its hands to sort of work through things,” adds FOX59 Colts reporter Mike Chappell. “Well now, time is of the essence to get things done.”
In the three days since, the league and its players have taken significant steps forward. On a conference call Monday, the NFL outlined a new agreement with its players union. In part, this agreement requires daily testing through the first two weeks of training camp.
The NFLPA responded optimistically, releasing in a statement, “The testing protocols we agreed to are one critical factor that will help us return to work safely and gives us the best chance to play and finish the season.”
“Now that we’re here to the doorstep of training camp,” states Jones, “we’re starting to see haggling over these final details”
“I hear people complaining, ‘Well we’re going back to work at the gas station or the grocery store’,” says Chappell. “(The NFL) is different. No one’s banging into you at the grocery store. At least they shouldn’t be.”
Perhaps the most significant hangup between the league and its players has been preseason games. Originally set at four games, the league cut it down to two a while back, but players have been pushing to get rid of this year’s preseason entirely. Finally this week, the NFL Network reports the NFLPA told players the league has agreed to scrap the preseason.
“This goes back to deadlines spur action,” states Chappell, “and the deadline is quickly approaching.”
Players will have some options to sit out the 2020 season all together, whether as high-risk for COVID-19 or as a voluntary choice. Exact details are still to be determined, but must be coming soon with full rosters scheduled to report to training camps in less than a week.
“There’s billions and billions of dollars at stake here,” Jones points out. “My big question is not are they gonna play a season, it’s are they gonna finish a season.”