NFL Players Concerned Over Lack Of COVID Safety Procedures

Player safety should be the most important thing right now.

Jim Rome
July 20, 2020 - 9:21 am
Mark Davis

USA Today

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I hate to come back from a couple weeks off and hit you with a hard one right out of the gate, but I’ve got to do it. Here is the hard truth: the NFL season might actually be impacted by Covid. I know, crazy, right? 

For months now, the NFL has been plowing ahead with its schedule in the middle of a global pandemic, almost to the point that it kind of seems like they’re ignoring it. And I guess it’s worked so far. Sure there have been modifications to OTA’s and minicamps, but they had free agency. They had the draft from Roger Goodell’s basement. And now they’re about to throw open the doors for training camp.

Rookies for Houston and Kansas City are due to report today. So the rubber is officially meeting the road. And there are still issues. Lots of issues. Starting with the fact that the players don’t think it’s safe to report to work. Think that might be a problem? Well, it is.  And the players made that clear, with one after another, tweeting about their concerns regarding safety at training camp.

JJ Watt led it off with a detailed tweet about what the players do and don’t know about what will happen at camp – like if there will be daily testing, every other day testing, etc. They want to be tested every single day; and I don’t blame them. They also want to know how a positive COVID test will be handled. And what’s the policy if a player wants to opt out. 

Logically, you might ask how the hell can players without an agreement in place? How can they report with so many unresolved safety and financial issues? I mean who shows up to work without a deal already in place? Pretty much nobody. Except, the existing agreement states that the league can mandate their reporting. Therefore, the league doesn’t need an agreement to get them to show: it’s mandated already. Another reason the players are upset, even if something they themselves agreed to. So maybe the reason the league is in no hurry to address the players’ concerns, is that it feels it doesn’t have to.  It can just tell the players, its reporting date, get to work.  

And the players aren’t happy about it. And they’re concerned. And want you to know they do want to play, but only if it’s safe. And the league’s biggest players are saying as much: .

You had this from Russell Wilson: I am concerned. My wife is pregnant. @NFL Training camp is about to start. And there's still No Clear Plan on Player Health & Family Safety. We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones. #wewanttoplay

This from Myles Garrett: "If the NFL doesn't do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It's that simple. #wewanttoplay

And this from Michael Thomas: If Adam Silver can respect the voices and protect his NBA players why can't @nflcommish do the same? Listen to your players.

And interestingly enough, the players aren’t the ones expressing these concerns. One of their own did as well. Raider owner Mark Davis.  Now… Davis is going to be known for more than just rocking the worst ginger cut ever and a flip phone: now… he’s the only owner approaching the viability of the coming season by saying, “lettttts not get into that just yet.”

Last night, Mark Davis told ESPN: "I don't even know if it's safe to play. ‘Uncertainty' is the word."

Given how eager the league has been to bull right through the pandemic, you know they can’t be pleased to hear that from Mark Davis.

And then he ran down three options for what the season could look like:

- Continue as planned, with training camps opening next week

- Delay the start until November and go with a 12 game regular season, which would mean cancelling the four inter-conference games.

- Cancel the 2020 season

That’s right, I said cancel the 2020 season completely. And that’s not me saying it, that’s an NFL owner saying it to ESPN. One thing for an owner to acknowledge it may not be safe to play, that was newsworthy enough, quite another to acknowledge cancelling the entire season is on the table as well. 

You have to think there were some seriously pissed off people in the NFL league office and other owners around the league when that story dropped. Because delaying the season, and shortening the season, are two of the league’s worst nightmares. And cancelling it? That has been practically unfathomable.

And the fact that it’s an owner talking about makes it even more insane. And yes, I know it’s not Jerry Jones or the Rooney’s or Bob Kraft talking. It’s the owner with the whack ginger bowl cut, who rolls around in a minivan with a flip phone fetish, and posts up at PF changs. But he is an owner nonetheless. He’s still one of them. 

An NFL owner saying that he’s not sure it’s safe to play right now. And an NFL owner raising the possibility of shortening or cancelling the season. There are only 32 of those guys on the planet and one of them has mentioned the unthinkable.

And I can’t say that I blame him. He has a point. And he might be right. It may not be safe. And the players have every right to be reluctant to show up and bent about the fact that they don’t have clarity on testing and protocols.

I know that data and information surrounding the virus has changed since March, but all along, the story has been that the NFL had an advantage because their season started so late in the year, so they could watch what the NBA, the NHL, MLB, and MLS would do in their re-starts and learn from it. So how are we at this point, right now, with rookies supposed to report today and players are jumping on twitter to say they don’t feel safe and they don’t know what’s going on?

The league should be creating an environment and safety protocols where players feel safe to show up to work. I trust the league is doing that at the moment, but why hasn’t it been done by now? They had more time than anyone else to get ready for this moment, so why on the day players are supposed to begin reporting, are there still so many questions??

The NBA and NHL announced their plans weeks in advance. The NFL has rookies showing up today and as of yesterday, guys like JJ Watt were saying there is a lack of clarity on testing protocols and what happens if there’s a positive test.

That feels like a couple of pretty basic questions that shouldn’t be unanswered at this point. Get this done and get it done right. Player safety should be the most important thing right now.

And if you can’t deliver on that, then you might have to listen to Mark Davis. And the fact that Mark Davis is the voice of reason, tells you just how jacked up this world really is right now.

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