Woodyard Fighting for Viable Opt-Out Option
To former Tennessee Titans linebacker and current NFLPA Vice President Wesley Woodyard, this football season, more than anything, will be about human life.
Some players, no matter the health and safety protocols implemented, will not feel safe hitting the field in 2020.
Right now, though, it’s unclear whether or not NFL players will have the option to back out of the 2020 season. Last week, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the league intends to implement the option, and players who chose to exercise it would need to communicate their intentions by a certain date.
During a July 10 interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Woodyard said those discussions are ongoing with owners.
“Me, being an executive committee member, my job is to fight for the players,” Woodyard, who remains a free agent, said. “No man should have to go to work and feel unsafe and have to worry about their health.
“We’re trying to get things into place. Maybe their contracts roll over into the next year? Who knows? Just little things that could possibly, potentially, make guys feel comfortable with being able to say, ‘Hey. I am a man first, I am human first. I don’t want to take this risk of possibly dying or causing someone else to die.’ Guys have to feel comfortable with that right.”
The MLB and the NBA have already crossed this bridge in recent weeks.
A growing list of baseball players already have decided to sit out the 2020 season, and some players continue to mull the option as Opening Day approaches. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, arguably the game’s best player, is in the latter category. In MLB’s plan, high-risk players (or players will be high-risk family members) who decide to opt out will receive their full salary and service time.
In the NBA, a long list of players opted out of the league’s Orlando restart (July 30). Among players who voluntarily opted out induced: Portland Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza, Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley and more. Others will not participate due to a prior COVID-19 infection or an injury.
As part of the NBA’s opt-out, players who decided to do so will not face league punishment, but will forfeit a portion of their salary for each game missed.
Many NFL players have recently expressed concern about participating in football activity during a pandemic, including former Titans safety Jason McCourty. Last week, Buffalo Bills star wide receiver Stefon Diggs expressed similar sentiments on Twitter.
The NFL has many decisions to make before players report to training camp this month. Whatever they may be, Woodyard hopes the decisions benefit the players most.
“We’re still in negotiations,” he said. “Owners have to really put their players first and see where we’re coming from. There has been so many different issues where owners overlook us, not feel our pain or not listen to where we really come from.
“We want to get something that’s secure for players taking those risks.”