As we approach the start of training camp, a possible beginning of a shortened preseason (or not), and the regular season, I feel as if we’ll see an up-tick in COVID-19 stories that tie into the NFL. We’ll do our best to cover them as they happen.
Packers CEO Mark Murphy astutely points out that time is no longer on the NFL’s side when it comes to the battle against COVID-19: “With so much uncertainty, it has made sense that we have not made decisions until we absolutely have to. As we near the start of training camp, though (rookies will start practice on July 21 and veterans on the 28th), time is no longer on our side.”
That’s ominous, but it’s only the beginning.
An Agreement on Travel Protocol for Training Camp (And Yes, Preseason, Too)
Let’s lead off with a positive development, shall we?
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reports the NFL and NFLPA have come to an agreement for training camp and the preseason. Florio cites a source that the agreement “implies strongly” that a preseason will take place. That goes against whatever Robert Griffin III heard from a source of his own when he tweeted that there won’t be a preseason, but I understand how this could be a fluid situation that changes at several times between now and when the preseason is scheduled to take place.
Back to the agreement between the league and the players, which details all sorts of rules that are going to need to be followed in order for this thing to go off in the best way possible. The eight-page document reportedly covers rules for traveling by plane and bus, mask requirements, physical distancing standards, size limitations for the traveling party, PPE usage, food service, and much more. I’ll be curious to see what the document shows if it is released publicly.
NFL Reportedly Proposes 35 Percent of Players Salaries Placed in Escrow
This is a situation worth monitoring:
The NFLPA informed its board of representatives today that the NFL proposed 35% of player salaries be held in escrow to help manage costs during the 2020 season, per sources.
It's one option on the table if revenue is impacted leaguewide by COVID-19.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 7, 2020
NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero reports the NFLPA told its board of player reps that the league has offered up proposal that would place 35 percent of player salaries in an escrow. The idea behind this request to put a portion of salaries in the hands of a third party until an agreed upon time would be to help the league manage money during the 2020 season. With the league facing the reality of losing revenue from reduced number of fans at games, as well as a shortened preseason (if one happens at all), this option was one that eventually got floated.
I don’t imagine it’s something that is going to get agreed upon without further negotiation, but it’s a whopper of an option that is apparently on the table. The NFL must make plans for revenue losses, especially since they will contribute to a shrinking of the salary cap in 2021 (and possibly beyond that).
Still No Opt-Out Policy
Albert Breer of SI.com writes that the opt-out policy is going to be an important bridge for the NFL and NFLPA to cross when that time comes. The NFLPA is angling for the league to give players opt-out capabilities with contracts rolling over to 2021, although I’m not quite sure how that will work (if it even gets agreed upon in the first place).
For what it’s worth, there aren’t any NFL players who have publicly expressed a desire to opt out just yet. However, there were rumors that “a few dozen” had discussed the option privately. We know there have been a few examples of NBA and MLB players opting out of their team’s seasons, so it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine some NFL players following suit.
Keeping an Eye on College Football
At the end of June, Morehouse College announced it was canceling fall sports. And with it, came the nixing of the college football season. That one of the most well-known HBCUs was scrapping college football was noteworthy, and it made me curious to see if any others would follow.
Bruce Feldman and Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic reported the Ivy League will announce it will move Fall sports — including football — to the spring. The Ivy League’s teams play in the Football Championship Subdivision, or what used to be called Division I-AA. So while that might not move the needle among the power conferences or at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, the Ivy League’s decision is something to keep in mind as we get approach college football season. Remember, the NCAA was quick to cancel March Madness after shutting down conference tournaments shortly after Rudy Gobert of the NBA’s Utah Jazz had a positive COVID-19 test. With that in mind, I wouldn’t put it past an FBS conference to try and push things to spring.
Just don’t think the NFL is going to move its draft to accommodate springtime football. Dan Wolken (USA Today) tweets moving the 2021 NFL Draft from its original scheduled date of April 29 in Cleveland isn’t something that is on the table.