The NFL and the NFL Players Association continue to head toward an unpleasant scenario as the end of July nears. Training camps are scheduled to start opening on Tuesday for rookies and the following Tuesday for veterans (for most teams), but the two sides appear to be far apart on a number of issues revolving around safety protocols related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ultimately, there has been no agreement between the two sides on even general precautions or the overall schedule for camp. According to its president, JC Tretter, the NFLPA has asked for a 45-day ramp-up schedule that would eliminate preseason games entirely. That portion of the union’s proposal is intended to help mitigate injury risk as a result of not having an offseason workout program, which was canceled due to the pandemic.
The two sides continue to negotiate, however, and proposals are continuing to go back and forth. ESPN’s Dan Graziano notes that exchanges are taking place every few hours and that there are a few items that have been agreed upon, such as players wearing devices that will help with contact tracing in the event of a positive test for COVID-19. The union, meanwhile, is insisting that every team share their emergency response plans prior to the start of camp.
Despite no full agreement being in place and the two sides still hammering out details, the NFL informed teams on Saturday that camps will still open on schedule. That means a July 21st report date for rookies and July 28th for veterans.
There are myriad ways to interpret this decision. A more league-friendly read on this statement is that the NFL is trying to set a deadline to ensure that they and the NFLPA can work to finalize all the details prior to reporting dates — effectively trying to help drive negotiations forward in an effort to get a full agreement in place by Tuesday. A cynical view, however, would be that the league is simply determined to stick to its schedule with little or no regard for the players’ concerns.
Whatever the reason, the league and union will continue to work through this weekend in an effort to arrive at a set of protocols that is acceptable to both sides. Stay tuned for more information as the weekend goes on and report dates continue to get closer.