NFL Bullish On Full Season; Some Offseason Programs May Be Lost
NFL execs "remain guardedly optimistic at this point, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, that they will be able to stage a complete or nearly complete" regular season, according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. But those execs also are "increasingly pessimistic about salvaging any of their teams' offseason programs for players and are wary of disruptions that would accompany the opening of training camps this summer." The NFL has been "relatively unaffected" by the outbreak aside from altering Draft plans, as it moved ahead with free agency last week. The dealmaking between teams and players "proceeded mostly as normal, even with some teams' offices closed and with front-office executives, agents and players required to overcome travel restrictions that complicated the ability of players to undergo physicals." NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that the league "continues to plan for teams' offseason programs, training camps and the season, but it will make adjustments if needed." Maske notes NFL leaders and team owners know that other pro sports leagues such as the NBA and MLB "must make decisions first," as those "should provide clarity to the NFL about what can and can't be done" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/24).
ANOTHER DOMINO TO FALL? In L.A., Sam Farmer writes the league's "insistence to stick with the April 23-25 dates for the draft could be problematic, giving some teams an unfair advantage and leaving some lesser-known players out in the cold." As it stands, the NFL is "planning a scaled-down version of the draft in a studio, using technology to check in with players and the various team headquarters." But the "problem" is that NFL Network HQ in Southern California is not "currently open" due to a shelter-in-place order. Virtually everyone is "working from home, and certainly the executives from the three California teams," the Rams, Chargers and 49ers. As "convincing as the NFL has been about pressing forward, there's a feeling among many that the current dates aren't set in stone" (L.A. TIMES, 3/24).
UNCERTAIN TIMES: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote the NBA potentially withholding player salaries during the ongoing pandemic will "surely make NFL players nervous about their own compensation." But there is "possibly some good news for NFL players." The NBA CBA "specifically addresses these situations with a 'force majeure' clause," while the NFL CBA "contains no such provision." This would "support a fairly basic argument that the teams owe the players their money even if there's no season," which would result in roughly $200M per team being "paid to players, with no revenue to offset the expense." The NFL "surely would come up with some sort of argument to justify not paying the players, language of CBA and individual player contract notwithstanding" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 3/23).