NFL, NFLPA, & PLAYERS on TACKLING COVID-19

The NFLPA and NFL players are voicing their concerns about COVID-19 and the new NFL guidelines.
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The NFL has always been resistant to change. After reading the new proposed COVID-19 policies and proposals, the league is still a step or two behind. Teams shut-down facilities to players and did not host OTAs and Mini-Camps this spring. The NFLPA does not recommend individual player workouts. A new surge in COVID-19 forced the league to cancel half of its preseason games. Also, players, executives, and NFL owners continue testing positive for the novel coronavirus. One-third of NFL teams are dealing with at least one positive coronavirus test. Recently, the league researched to assess the potential effects on players and the potential for injuries because of inactivity.

RECOMMENDATIONS MADE TO THE NFL

Through the Joint Committee of doctors, trainers, and strength coaches, the NFL developed protocols designed to bring players up to full speed healthily when they return. Initially, the NFL accepted and used the Joint Committee’s recommendations, including suggestions of no joint practices or fans at training camp. Surprisingly, the NFL did not embrace all recommendations according to the prioritizing player safety in a pandemic document.   Read the released letter on the proposals.

The NFL continues laying out guidelines for the reopening of team facilities, amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, the CDC forecasts 135,461 U.S. deaths by July 11th, and just one day after the prediction, the U.S. has recorded 137,000 deaths. The NFL reiterates their chief concern, “Our principal concern is player safety, both regarding preventing the virus’ transmission and preventing injuries after an extended and historically unique layoff.”

The NFLPA clarified that they do not want players merely returning to work and have the season shut down before it begins. They promised to do their part to advocate for player safety.

”We will continue to hold the NFL accountable and demand that the league use data, science, and the recommendations of its own medical experts to decide. It has been clear for months that we need to fit football inside the world of coronavirus. Deciding outside that lens is both dangerous and irresponsible.” JC Tretter

New Orleans has opened their facilities for rehabilitation for injured players. The full roster will not return until the last week of July for Saints training camp in Metairie.

NEW PROPOSALS BEING QUESTIONED

Enforcing the pandemic document promises the NFL post-game experience will change. Under proposed NFL-NFLPA game day protocols, they will forbid the Saints and other NFL teams from interacting within 6 feet. The agreement intends to limit exposure risk to NFL players, coaches, club medical staff, and other club and league staff.  

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport added that, under the proposed protocols, coaches and players wouldn’t be required to wear masks on the sideline, but other game-day workers in the bench areas would be required to wear one. Anyone with bench access would be screened pre-game, and all who record temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or might have been exposed to COVID-19 wouldn’t be permitted to enter the stadium on game day.

Notable proposed game day changes in the document include:

  • On-field fan seating would be prohibited.
  • Teams will travel to the stadium via bus services.
  • Media will have no or limited locker rooms and bench access to players and coaches.
  • Jersey exchanges between players would be prohibited.
  • If their temperature is above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or might have been exposed to COVID-19 wouldn’t be permitted to enter the stadium on game day.

NFL players are not staying quiet about their criticism of the proposal and belief that the NFL is out of touch.  Outspoken veteran Richard Sherman led the way on Twitter,

Darron Lee, a free agent linebacker was not shy in implying football’s high-contact nature made the games a more risky environment than any post-game interactions.

“So we can hit each other all game but can’t shake hands after?” the first-round pick of the 2016 NFL Draft tweeted.

Sherman and Lee weren’t the only outspoken critics of the new guidelines. New Orleans Saints’ Malcolm Jenkins shared his concerns about the uncertainty of the coronavirus a few weeks ago. He was clear that he wanted to play football, and he shared the sentiments of his peers. He took to social media and said, “To be clear, I want to play football. I think all my peers want to play football. It’s how we make a living. But there’s so much that we don’t know right now and what we look at, what’s happening in the country, cases are going up, deaths are going up,” said Jenkins.

“We look at what’s happening in college football. Over 41 schools have outbreaks of COVID in their locker rooms after they tried to come back for voluntary workouts. LSU’s got 30 guys are now in quarantine. We’re watching other sports that will start up before football to see how they’re doing it, what their protocols are, and if they’ll work.”  

Will the new standards and policies protect the players in 2020?  It's unclear.  If this is not properly handled by the NFL, 2020 could be in danger.