The NFL plans to start training camps on time this year. They’ll also allow stadium fan capacities to be decided on a state and/or local level, rather than instituting some sort of mandate from the top. And as of now, there is a quiet confidence that the 101st NFL season will start as scheduled.
But even if all of that does happen, the 2020 season will look different than what we would otherwise expect in a “normal” year. Specifically, some familiar faces could possibly decide to opt out of action in 2020.
We’ve seen examples of this in MLB (with Ian Desmond) and the NBA (Davis Bertans). So with that in mind, we’d be foolish not to expect some NFL players to consider doing the same, though we now actually have a little more than an expectation.
In an interview on the McNeil and Parkins Show on 670 The Score, Pro Football Weekly Executive Editor/NFL insider Hub Arkush said he has heard rumblings to that effect: “I’ve had a number of players tell me they’re not playing, but it’s all been off the record at this point,” Arkush said. “And when I say a number of players, there’s 1,800 of them. I’ve talked to a few dozen, but yeah, I know of some players who’ve said they’re not playing. It was off the record, so I’m not naming names.”
You can listen to the full interview by clicking on the embedded link below:
It would be irresponsible to assume or even try to guess whom these players could be. But this is still relatively eye-opening, especially if there are truly that many players indicating that preference.
Now with that said, there is an enormous caveat here: The NFL doesn’t even have a plan in place for players to opt-out of the season yet – at least, not a publicly released plan. And if that’s the case, I’m not sure we should expect every single player who’s reportedly indicated a preference to opt-out of the 2020 season to hold true to that word. It’s entirely possible that alterations to their expected service time, financials, and external pressure could change their minds.
For now, that’s just a thing they’re saying. And while I’d obviously support any player’s decision to opt-out, I’m not sure these players are all legitimately willing to do so blindly.
As we learned with the Desmond case, there are family, health, and other off-field concerns a player could cite as reasons they’d consider opting out of the season. And I imagine there are some NFL players who could align with Bertans’ train of thought (a free-agent-to-be who wants to be fully healthy before cashing in on a new deal in the upcoming offseason). In effect, there are no shortage of reasonable grounds to make such a decision, but few players are likely to make that call before knowing what’s at stake.
And so for their benefit, the NFL must figure this out as soon as possible. There is way too much to consider to punt this decision down the line or just continuing to pretend that everything is more or less normal. Players, teams, coaches, other organizational personnel must know what they are giving up by opting out, and so far, the league does not seem to have an answer for them.
Meanwhile, training camp is scheduled to open at the end of this month.
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.