NFL Players Union: No Health Compromise
In talks today with league, no budging on sticking points
While cases of COVID-19 are surging the NFL is considering how they can safely start the season. With just a few weeks before training camps begin, both sides sat down to meet with each other on Monday to discuss policies for reopening the league.
UCOMM previously reported that the Players Association was pushing the league to cancel preseason games to protect the players. Sources tell ESPN that both sides are close to an agreement to reduce the preseason to one game and allow for a slower ramp-up period during training camp. This is especially important since off-season training camps and activities were canceled due to COVID-19 and more players are expected to come back either not in football shape or needing more time to acclimate to a new team's playbook. It would also seem responsible that teams will limit contact in practice and may limit classroom work due to COVID-19, meaning that the players will need more time to get game ready.
Both sides also are said to be talking about an opt-out policy to deal with players who chose not to participate in the season. If the NBA and MLB are any indications a number of players will make the decision to not play this year. No players have yet said they will not play in 2020, but some have voiced their concerns. The league is also considering reducing the number of eligible players on the team to reduce the chance of infection. However, this could be a sticking point as other leagues have increased their roster sizes in anticipation of players being out due to testing positive for COVID. Additionally, both sides are negotiating the economics of a season without fans and equipment modifications that could be used to keep players safe.
On Monday, the NFL revealed a new face shield that has been sent to teams to test throughout the training camp. The design, which was created by Oakley in collaboration with the Players Association and the league, is said to reduce particulates coming out of a player's mouth. The new face shield may be a nonstarter for some players though. Houston Texan’s star JJ Watt has said that if the league mandates a face shield he may sit out the season, saying that he previously had an issue wearing a face shield.
While negotiations between the two sides continue, San Francisco 49ers CB Richard Sherman tweeted after the meeting that while they had a good meeting, the players were “blunt and honest with them, we will not compromise our players' health in these discussions.”