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Volume 27 No. 30
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De Smith: NFL, NFLPA Weighing Decision To Start Season On Time

NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said league and union officials "have to ask tough questions" about how sporting events "fit into the safe practices of our country during a pandemic" when considering whether the NFL season should start on time. Smith, speaking to CBS' Major Garrett yesterday on the "Debriefing the Briefing" podcast, said officials need to ponder "whether or not the progress of a sporting event either jeopardizes our healthcare system or jeopardizes the first responders, who would nonetheless have to be there to keep us safe." Smith: "There's hundreds of police officers, firefighters, first responders at these games. Are we comfortable with those first responders being at a football game in order to keep us safe, or are we more comfortable with them being where they need to be in order to keep our families safe?" Garrett asked if NFL players should have access to coronavirus tests before the general public. Smith: "I don't think that anyone in our larger community should suffer simply because we want football to proceed on time." He added, "We know that we are in a situation now where we cannot mass test the people who need it. ... We have to make sure that they are taken care of first."

PRACTICES NOT ESSENTIAL BUSINESS: Smith said the NFLPA's approach to handling the pandemic was that "football was non-essential, and that's where you start." Smith: "OTA's or offseason practices, we shouldn't assume that those are essential things that our players need to be doing right now." Smith added the union "came up with a way of working with the league to make those practices voluntary and virtual." Smith: "We can bend football to what we need to do in order to keep our players safe and our communities safe." Meanwhile, Smith addressed concerns over reduced player salaries, and he expects the "cap to go up next year." But he added, "If it goes down, we'll be fine." Smith: "I look at all the people who are out of work and basically went out of work overnight. ... No one should be feeling sorry for NFL players when it comes to their salary" ("Debriefing the Briefing," 4/20).