The NFL is scheduled to fully re-open with a full-contact training camp on July 28th - when all players are scheduled to report, including the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Rookies are expected to return to camp on July 21st, followed by quarterbacks. Injured players will report July 23rd and all other players on July 28th.
While this has been the plan since the beginning of the offseason, the NFL and NFLPA has reportedly yet to make a complete and full deal as it pertains to the coronavirus pandemic and how NFL plans to keep the players safe.
Many players, including Jaguars wide receiver Chris Conley, have spoken out - evidently in coordination - over the past 24 hours in protest to the NFL’s plan to re-open, expressing concerns for their families and loved ones as they inch closer to their report date.
One thing has been made clear: the players want to play, they want to earn the money they deserve as part of their agreements in general and want to provide entertainment for the fans. What they do not want, which also coincides to many in the general public, is to threaten their health or their families’ health.
“The @nfl is taking their sweet time to formulate safety protocols for positive cases,” Conley wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “They have also ignored the recommendations by medical professionals hired to help us safely begin. #WeWantToPlay but a plan has to be in place. People aren’t expendable.”
People are not expendable. As the NFL continues to assess the economical aspects of playing on a shortened or canceled season, it appears the players’ primary concern is their own health and safety.
Not only that but we don’t know how teams will deal with the “non stars” if they test positive. Will you fine or cut someone who gets sick? Are there any protections for players with at risk children if they miss a week? As of right now we must assume the risk with out knowing— Chris Conley (@FlightConley) July 19, 2020
One of the more outspoken players in the NFL, Houston Texans defensive lineman JJ Watt, also took to Twitter on Sunday to provide an update to players and fans alike, where they are at in terms of what players do and do not know as it stands today.
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
A couple of notes from Watt’s notepad includes, “We still have not been granted the full and proper training camp acclimation period necessary as recommended by the medical and training staffs,” and “if players do not show up on time, they can be fined or considered in breach of contract, even if health and safety protocols have not been agreed upon or IDER (Infectious Disease Emergency Response) plans have been approved.”
The common theme remains, “we want to play.”
Other players that have expressed concerns today, include Drew Brees, Richard Sherman, Patrick Mahomes, Tyrann Mathieu, Russel Wilson, Stefon Diggs, Malcolm Jenkins, and many many more.
The NFL has yet to come up with a safe way to return to football, and while the NHL and NBA have the luxury of operating under a “bubble”, the NFL has not and likely will not implement any such thing. As such, the NFL is expected to operate as planned as far as travel is concerned, likely with some safety protocols such as masks and social distances set in place.
One of the primary concerns players have is in regards to testing; how many times a week will players be tested? What happens if one player from a position group gets sick, what then of the remaining players? Standard questions that ought to be addressed in any deal the NFL-NFLPA come to an agreement on.
The issue remains: the NFL is currently slated to force players to return, deal or no deal, and that has lead to what we are seeing today - a blitz on the NFL from its players and their concern for safety.
The NFL’s lack of a proper response to safety for its players should not come as a surprise, however. This has been an ongoing issue for the NFL with its NFL Players Association dating back to when the NFL was being sued due to sustained concussions by its players and the long-term effects that has and continues to have on their health, as NY Daily News writer, Charles McDonald pointed out weeks ago.
Jaguars linebacker Joe Schobert retweeted a comment from his wife, Megan Schobert, one what players were told as part of their call with the NFL and NFLPA on Friday.
My favorite part of the call on Friday was when a player asked how they are enforcing players/staff to stay socially distanced and away from risky covid settings outside of football and they laughed and said “you are grown men, you will be using the honor system”— Megan Schobert (@meganschobert) July 19, 2020
“My favorite part of the call on Friday was when a player asked how they are enforcing players/staff to stay socially distanced and away from risky covid settings outside of football and they laughed and said ‘you are grown men, you will be using the honor system’,” she said on twitter.
Putting aside the idea that players will be treated as children while being called grown men, from a safety standpoint this isn’t a very clear answer as to how the NFL plans to thwart the virus and ensure safety for its players at all.
While the NFL continues to push back on more testing, safer protocols, preseason and most medical recommendations, it appears on thing is clear: the players want to play, and they will always want to be safe, this isn’t changing, and until it does, expect more backlash and perhaps more as they continue to go unheard.