Player Safety Main Reason Behind Cutting Preseason, Trimming Roster
The NFL and NFLPA reportedly agreed to cancel all preseason games and cut the training camp roster size down from 90 to 80, which players feel is “safest way to get to Week 1 to infect the fewest number of players possible," according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. As these discussions go on "regarding health and safety, the economics play into it as well." The owners are "trying to tell the players, 'You're going to lose money at some point. Where do you want that money to come from?'" Garafolo notes the players "remain adamant" that they "do not want to give up any money this year." They want the "loss in revenue to be spread out over the remainder of the CBA that was just ratified." They "don’t want any one class, any one year of players, taking on more of the hit than others" (“Good Morning Football,” NFL Network, 7/22). ESPN’s Jeff Darlington said, "I spoke to some players who said the product will likely be sloppier come Week 1. That being said, what’s important to the players is their health, and I’m not just talking about COVID. I’m talking about not getting injured." He added, "It might be a sloppier look to the season in Week 1, but at least it will also be players that believe they will stay healthier” (“Get Up,” ESPN, 7/22).
ISSUES OUTSTANDING: ESPN.com's Dan Graziano reported with yesterday's developments, the league and the NFLPA are "inching closer to an agreement on rules that will govern training camp and the season." Weeks of negotiations "seem to be coming to a head." Sources said that there has been "agreement on several issues but work remains to be done on others" (ESPN.com, 7/21). THE ATHLETIC's Jones & Standig reported players had been "pushing for zero preseason games, so that, along with Monday’s agreement on daily testing for COVID-19 during the first two weeks of camp, appear to be wins for the union." The roster reduction, "initially proposed by the league, is more complicated, though union leadership was not opposed" (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/21). On Long Island, Bob Glauber reports the two sides have "agreed on an opt-out for players who don’t want to play this season because of coronavirus concerns." A source said that the league has "agreed to pay a stipend to those players and also offer medical benefits" (NEWSDAY, 7/22).
ROSTER SIZE: NESN’s Matt Chatham, who was an undrafted rookie out of college before playing eight years in the NFL, said the reduced roster sizes are "infuriating." He said, "These are not just some names on a piece of paper. ... These are people that left college, worked out, got an agent, signed with a team, studied all off-season, trained their butt off and are all ready to realize their dream here, and they’re going to get administrated out of the league before they arrive" (“After Hours,” NESN, 7/21). In Houston, Aaron Wilson reports the league and the players' union are "still negotiating financial issues involving the salary cap." NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith predicted a $70M "shortfall per team this season due to a reduction in revenue during this global health crisis" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/22).
TALKING TESTING: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Charean Williams noted the NFLPA earlier yesterday "listed 95 NFL players with a known positive COVID-19 test." But they "changed the number" last night. The NFLPA's website "now lists 59 players" (NBCSPORTS.com, 7/21). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio cited a source as saying that the NFL is "monitoring advances in point of care testing." Florio noted point-of-care testing "generates results within 15 minutes to an hour." But its current accuracy rate is "in the range of 80-85 percent" (NBCSPORTS.com, 7/21). USA TODAY's Dan Wolken writes "no matter how you couch it or explain it, sports are cutting the line and using resources that seem to be scarce in too many areas of the country -- an issue that will only get worse when the NFL starts eating up tens of thousands of tests per week to for the first couple weeks of training camp when players are tested daily" (USA TODAY, 7/22).
MORE GAMES ON THE HORIZON? PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Florio reported as the NFL "braces for inevitable losses in game-day revenue from fans not attending games and the potential loss of TV revenue from canceled games, the league could eventually suggest to players an idea for rebuilding budgets broken by the pandemic: Expanding from 17 to 18 regular-season games." The league "hasn’t raised it yet." But as it "begins to identify potential strategies for recouping money lost" this season, the "easiest and most obvious option comes from playing more games, possibly as soon as 2022" (NBCSPORTS.com, 7/21).
AROUND THE COUNTRY: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes it "would be nice to think that when football returns to the way we are accustomed, in 2021, the NFL’s preseason will no longer be a part of it" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 7/22). FS1’s Colin Cowherd said, “The NFL owners for years said, ‘The value of the preseason.' The minute the players were like, ‘We’re not playing,’ they caved on it. The preseason is a rip-off for fans. It’s bad for players. It’s not good for networks" (“The Herd,” FS1, 7/22). In Providence, Mark Daniels writes, "At the end of the summer, if the NFL can pull off a season, it’ll create a nice distraction for everyone -- even if the lack of a preseason costs some unknown players roster spots" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 7/22). SI.com's Andrew Brandt wrote NFL owners will now "take a hard line on reducing player pay, proposing tens of millions of reduced cap charges between this year and next." Brandt: "It appears to me that the NFL is using the MLB blueprint: running out the clock to make the opponent start to panic about getting ready to play" (SI.com, 7/21).