As the NFL and NFL Players Association continue to haggle over the protocols for football practice and games in a pandemic, NFLPA president JC Tretter is warning his constituents that the league’s preferred approach could spell doom for everyone.
“Our normal return date for training camp is quickly approaching and we are still far from back to ‘normal,'” Tretter writes in an item posted at the NFLPA website. “Our main concern is player safety, both in regard to preventing the virus’ transmission as well as preventing injuries after an extended and historically unique layoff. Like many other industries, football’s resistance to change is based on the belief that the best way to run things is the way we’ve always run things. That pervasive thought process will stop this season in its tracks.”
Tretter points out that players don’t want to simply return to work, they want to stay at work. Part of the concern is the possibility of increased injuries due to the lack of an offseason programs. After the 2011 lockout, which wiped out the offseason program that year, Tretter says injuries increased by 25 percent.
His broader concern relates to the pandemic. Tretter says that the league accepted the initial recommendations of a joint committee of doctors, trainers, and strength coaches, such as no joint practices and no fans at training camp. Tretter writes that the league is unwilling to follow the committee’s recommendation of a 48-day training camp, and that “the NFL is unwilling to prioritize player safety and believes that the virus will bend to football.”
Tretter emphasizes the union’s position that there should be no preseason games, noting that the league has been unable to articulate a medical reason to play “games that don’t count in the standings.” Tretter notes, however, that the league’s preference for two preseason games come from a desire to evaluate rotes and to test game-day virus protocols.
“We don’t want to merely return to work and have the season shut down before we even get started,” Tretter writes. “The NFLPA will do its part to advocate for player safety. We will continue to hold the NFL accountable and demand that the league use data, science and the recommendations of its own medical experts to make decisions. It has been clear for months that we need to find a way to fit football inside the world of coronavirus. Making decisions outside that lens is both dangerous and irresponsible.”
Tretter makes a good point. Even if players will choose to play despite any recommendation by the union to skip the season, the season quickly will implode if the league can’t keep the number of positive cases to a range that won’t leave teams without enough players and the league without enough teams.