NFL, NFLPA Anticipate Players Opting Out of 2020 Season

Jason B. Hirschhorn

With the COVID-19 pandemic still a presence in American life, numerous athletes in sports leagues planning to begin play in the coming weeks. That trend could soon make its way to the NFL despite its regular season not scheduled to kick off until Sept. 10.

According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the NFL and NFLPA anticipate players opting out of the upcoming season due to the pandemic. Players would need to make their decisions on whether to participate by a certain date that the league and union have yet to determine.

"My understanding is both the union and the league intend to have an opt-out for players who have either a pre-existing condition, family with pre-existing conditions, just general concerns over COVID-19, and would not want to play this season," Pelissero said Wednesday. "General managers were told on a call earlier this week there would be a specific date by which players would need to opt-out. That date is still to be determined."

It remains unclear if the opt-out date would arrive before or after the start of training camps which, barring a change in plans, will begin on July 28 for the Los Angeles Chargers and most other clubs. Similarly, teams do not yet know what will happen with those who initially commit to play in 2020 but change their minds after the deadline.

Another major issue pertains to contracts. While a player who opts against participating in 2020 would not earn their salary and bonuses, a year of the contract could still conceivably toll. That matter would not only impact free agency in the future but would also have ramifications for player eligibility and benefits in the NFL's pension plan. Those issues will require additional negotiation between the league and union.

-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH