Could Several Seahawks Opt Out of 2020 Season?
As the NFL continues to grapple with the immense challenges of trying to start training camps later this month and conduct a full season during a pandemic, with ongoing labor discussions on the verge of becoming contentious, more and more players across the league landscape are vocalizing their concerns about player safety.
Earlier this week, with two preseason games already reportedly axed, the NFL Players Association unanimously voted for no preseason games to be played at all. Instead, NFLPA president JC Tretter indicated the league and NFLPA's coronavirus task force agreed on a 48-day training camp to help acclimate players and eliminate potential injury spikes after having no on-field work this offseason.
"Every decision this year that prioritizes normalcy over innovation, custom over science or even football over health, significantly reduces our chances of completing the full season," Tretter wrote.
Meanwhile, owners reportedly have considered a proposal asking players to have 35 percent of their 2020 salaries put in escrow to offset lost revenue without fans attending games, drawing the ire of Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs and others. There has also been dialogue between the two sides about shrinking rosters down to 80 or less players for camp.
Through it all, players such as Panthers safety Tre Boston still have more questions than answers with camps scheduled to start in less than three weeks. For Diggs, he's hoping for clarity sooner rather than later with an 11-month old daughter at home and lingering concerns about bringing COVID-19 home to his family.
"If I have a job to do, I have a job to do," Diggs said. "But I would prefer that, if we have to push things back because we can't get it situated, can't get a detailed plan in order, I'm all fine with pushing it back."
Diggs is far from alone sharing that sentiment, as players from all 32 teams have echoed concerns about contracting the virus and spreading it to family members. With record numbers of cases in multiple states, not every player seems keen on playing football during current circumstances.
Raising the question of whether or not the NFL will give players the option to opt out of the 2020 season, defensive end Bruce Irvin won't be the last Seahawks player to consider sitting out. Players in other sports such as Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman have already made the choice not to play this year in their respective sports and several NFL stars could follow suit.
While he's already been ignoring the NFLPA's recommendation for not practicing in groups, quarterback Russell Wilson has two children and his wife Ciara is currently pregnant. Even being the ultimate competitor that he is, would he really want to risk getting them sick by playing?
And Wilson is far from the only player with children to watch out for and protect from COVID-19. Two of Seattle's incoming rookies - defensive end Darrell Taylor and running back DeeJay Dallas - have young children of their own. Again, do they want to risk the possibility of bringing the illness home?
For players like Diggs, though he loves the game of football and wants to get back to work, such risk doesn't outweigh the potential reward. The right protocols have to be in place to ensure players and their families are as protected as possible. And if not? Those players deserve the option to bypass the season.
"I don't want to bring anything into my house. Babies don't normally have the best immune system, so I want to stay as clear and free away from it as I can."
The NFL reportedly has discussed plans for allowing players the option to opt out, just as the NBA and MLB have done recently. But as indicated by Irvin's tweet, no concrete plan has been revealed to the players, who still remain in the dark on a number of issues in mid-July.
With rookies expected to report in the near future to camps - if an agreement can be reached between the league and players, of course - the clock is ticking for both sides. If answers don't surface on a number of critical topics, there's a good chance many players will bow out, further creating skepticism the 2020 season will happen as planned.