Football is coming.
But long before kickoffs happen around the league, NFL players need to know what health and safety protocols are going to be in place as report dates start this week for the Chiefs and Texans, while the other 30 training camps are set to open around the league in nine days. Today, many players took to Twitter to take that position publicly.
Among them, Chicago Bears star pass-rusher Khalil Mack:
— Khalil Mack (@FiftyDeuce) July 19, 2020
Among the many others:
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
— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) July 19, 2020
— Zach Ertz (@ZERTZ_86) July 19, 2020
If #AdamSilver can respect the voices and protect his @NBA players why can’t @NFLcommish do the same? Listen to your players. If we want to have a full season it will have to look different with OUR safety as the priority. @NFL make the necessary changes. #WeWantToPlay
— DIGGS (@stefondiggs) 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
What you are seeing today is our guys standing up for each other and for the work their union leadership has done to keep everyone as safe as possible. The NFL needs to listen to our union and adopt the experts' recommendations #wewanttoplay
— JC Tretter (@JCTretter) July 19, 2020
Players expressing concerns about playing in the midst of a pandemic in what looks to be a coordinated effort by some big names is a big deal. And in the player-empowerment era we live in, tweets from some of the league’s best and most prominent players serves as a reminder that the NFL and NFLPA still have plenty of things to iron out before the season starts.
Yes, I recognize there are issues to deal with from an economic standpoint. And that might be a point of contention at some point in the near future. HOWEVER, this is clearly an effort from the players side expressing that they want to play a season, and to do so, pushing to ensure that health and safety is prioritized as much as anything. For what it’s worth, I suppose the two sides can talk through the financial stuff while camp goes on and players ramp up for the season. But players are making it known that they want to play, hence, driving home the importance that health and safety matters in order to make this happen. How can you expect players to report to training camp and start taking extra risks when they don’t even know what protocols are going to be in place?
Players voicing concerns about their health and safety today is why this tweet on Friday from the NFL feigning optimism made me feel uneasy:
We just wrapped up a productive call with the 32 clubs pic.twitter.com/sRn5Bnl33O
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) July 17, 2020
Don’t get me wrong. I want this football season to happen. And I would love to be more optimistic about things. Heck, a friend once called me “the most overtly optimistic person” they know, and it’s arguably the nicest thing anyone has said to me. But the realist in me notices that the NFL’s statement doesn’t mention anything the NFL and NFLPA aren’t agreeing on right now — and we know it’s not as if there are just a couple of “Ts” to cross and “Is” to dot here. There are big, big issues to still work out:
Another source said the union is in the process of reviewing IDER plans teams have submitted, but that they do not yet have all 32.
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) July 19, 2020
Other 2020 NFL team travel guidelines:
-Masks required while traveling.
-Buses at no more than 50 percent capacity.
-At least one open seat between passengers on the plane.
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) July 17, 2020
.@nflpa & @nfl jointly developed these educational videos/presentation that are being sent to players & clubs. Clubs must hold at least 1 live virtual session for players & staff & also a session for family members. Take a look https://t.co/7n2A98jdQc
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) July 17, 2020
One idea endorsed by the NFL competition committee to help teams cope with positive COVID-19 tests in 2020: Allow unlimited players to return from injured reserve and non-football injury lists, after just 3 games instead of 8. It’s been discussed as NFL and NFLPA talks continue.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 17, 2020
These feel like good starting points. But with camps opening up soon, we should be closer to finding resolutions, not just talking about “good starting points.”
Again, I would love if the NFL was able to avoid the type of public fighting that sullied much of MLB’s summer (especially in the first year of a new CBA), and avoid having to “impose” a season, as MLB did. Getting health and safety right is an important first step, and the players aren’t gonna be quiet about it.