Beginning Monday, NFL players are set to begin reporting to training camp with rookies and veterans arriving later in the week.
Football ahead of us:
July 21: Rookies report to camp
July 23: QB/injured players report
July 28: All other players report
August 20-24: Preseason Week 1 (if played)
August 27-31: Preseason Week 2 (if played)
September 10: Chiefs-Texans
September 13: First full Sunday of 🏈
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) July 18, 2020
However, there is not currently an agreement between the NFLPA and NFL regarding a testing or health and safety protocol with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is obviously a significant impediment to the NFL season despite the league’s insistence that games go on as planned. Despite being the league that has had the most time to come up with a plan for how to proceed, they have apparently spent that time hoping and wishing that this would all just disappear rather than planning and preparing a comprehensive strategy for testing and what happens when (not if) players test positive during camp.
With the NFL not even considering a bubble like the NBA and MLS, there must be an even more aggressive testing policy in place to make certain the virus does not spread in camps and at NFL venues, and that apparently doesn’t exist. Under the current CBA, teams can still force players to report this week (and appear set on doing so) without an agreement between the two sides in place for the pandemic, but there is clear and understandable concern on the side of the players about whether they can do this safely.
On Sunday, players made a coordinated social media effort to draw attention to this issue, while also focusing their messaging around a “#WeWantToPlay” hashtag to ensure they aren’t painted as the side trying to keep football from happening. Players from around the league, including many of the NFL’s stars, posted messages indicating their frustration with the NFL’s lack of a coherent and clear plan for health and safety while noting they hope the league can get that in place soon so they can safely report to camp — noting that the difference between this and other inherent health dangers of football is that this is something that they could bring home to their families.
I am concerned.
My wife is pregnant.@NFL Training camp is about to start..
And there’s still No Clear Plan on Player Health & Family Safety. 🤷🏾
We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones. #WeWantToPlay
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) July 19, 2020
The NFL has ignored the safety recommendations from the experts that THEY hired. We all love this game and want to go out and compete with our brothers. The NFL needs to provide a safe work environment for us to do that. #WeWantToPlay
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) July 19, 2020
Once again in the interest of keeping everyone (players & fans) as informed as possible, here is an updated list of what we as players know and don’t know as the first group gets set to report to training camp tomorrow.#WeWantToPlay pic.twitter.com/xQcjs33zgM
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) July 19, 2020
We need Football! We need sports! We need hope! The NFL’s unwillingness to follow the recommendations of their own medical experts will prevent that. If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. Get it done @NFL
— Drew Brees (@drewbrees) July 19, 2020
It is disheartening to hear the NFL is unwilling to follow the recommendations of their own experts regarding player health & safety. If we want to have a FULL season the NFL needs to listen to their experts! #WeWantToPlay @NFL
— Deshaun Watson (@deshaunwatson) July 19, 2020
It’s not about money it’s about health & safety. Do the right thing @nfl
— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) July 19, 2020
— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) July 19, 2020
— Todd Gurley II (@TG3II) July 19, 2020
Crazy to see how the NFL is not following the recommendations of its own experts regarding health and safety for Us as players! As of today questions have not been answered and we want to play football. Y’all want to watch football this year?#WeWantToPlay
— Jarvis Juice Landry (@God_Son80) July 19, 2020
It is truly remarkable, in the worst possible way, that the league has had months to consider and come up with a plan for this exact moment and has simply not done so — at least, to the extent that they can provide such an idea to the union for approval. There seems to have been a “wait and see” approach that extended far beyond the reasonable timetable to do so, as the past month and a half has seen cases spiking around the country once again, which was very clearly not going to result in business as usual.
The players, which have never been the most solid union in sports, seem to be as together as they’ve ever been on this issue and that’s a place of strength. The question is if this leads to swift action by the NFL, or if the start of camp will be put into jeopardy by a lack of planning.