NFLPA: No Preseason Games
The players union voted to eliminate the preseason over COVID-19 fears
With just a few weeks before training camp opens, the NFL is still unsure what their preseason schedule will look like. While a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was signed earlier this year, the NFL is facing many of the same challenges that other teams’ sports are being forced to deal with.
As concerns about spiking cases around the country continue, the NFLPA is proposing eliminating all preseason games. This plan contrasts with the NFL’s plan to reduce the preseason from four games to two. On a conference call on Thursday, the player's reps unanimously voted to eliminate the preseason.
Although training camps are set to open at the end of the month there are still many questions about how NFL teams will keep their players safe considering the high level of contact in the sport. There are also concerns that players will need more conditioning time this season since offseason workouts and access to the team facilities were limited or canceled due to the virus. Last month the union also recommended that players stop practicing together for fear that it could spread the virus among teammates.
In place of preseason games, the NFLPA is proposing a four-stage plan. The first stage would be medical physicals for all players upon reporting to camp, which would last three days, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The following 21 days would make up the second stage, a strength, and conditioning program to prepare the players' bodies for a return to football activity. From there, teams would move to a third stage that would resemble OTAs in which players would participate in 10 days of non-contact, non-padded practices before eventually shifting to a 14-day fourth stage that would be focused on what camp traditionally looks like, with potentially 10 total practices with a maximum of eight padded practices. This plan would take about 48 days and immediately precede Week 1 of the season.
While players have long sought to shorten the preseason, owners have always fought to keep the games, since they result in more opportunities to bring fans into the stadium. However, with no fans attending games this season, there is less of a financial incentive to play the games. By eliminating the games, teams would also be able to better isolate players since they would not have to travel to cities that could be seeing a spike in cases. For example, in the second week of the preseason, the Baltimore Ravens are playing the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas. While Maryland has controlled their cases, Texas has seen one of the biggest spikes in recent weeks. Without these meaningless games, Ravens players won’t have to risk getting sick in Dallas and bringing COVID back to Baltimore.
While the NFL doesn’t believe that they have to negotiate a preseason schedule with the players, this year has shown that without buy-in from both sides a season won’t get underway.