If you thought that Steelers players were upset by the postponement of their Week 12 game from Thursday to Sunday, wait to see how they’d respond to a possible decision that the Ravens have forfeited the game.
The vague threat of a forfeited game has loomed over the 2020 season, and plenty have argued that teams should be held responsible for their own inability to control the virus by taking an automatic L. Financial realities make the situation far more complicated than that.
A forfeit would spark a fight over money between the league and the union. Although some in the media are parroting the league’s position that the players for both teams wouldn’t be paid, the agreement struck by the NFL and the NFL Players Association prior to the opening of training camps does not cover forfeited games. It provides only for non-payment of players in the event that games are cancelled or suspended.
A forfeited game isn’t a cancelled or suspended game. It’s a forfeited game. There’s a winner (by the score of 2-0, per the league’s official rulebook) and a loser. It goes into the standings. It counts as an official game.
In any other year, a forfeit never would have resulted in the forfeiture of player pay. If the league wanted forfeited games to fall within the parameters of the no-play, no-pay arrangement, the league should have included that specific term in the agreement with the union.
Really, why should the Steelers not be paid if the game can’t be played for reasons unrelated to them? They spent the week practicing, they spent the week preparing. They spent most of the week in limbo. If the game can’t be played and if the league tries to pick their pockets for their game checks, the Pittsburgh players would have every right to scream and shout and tweet streams of profanities regarding their displeasure with the situation.
Besides, it’s hard to make the Ravens solely responsible for the potential inability to play. As explained earlier today, the league allowed the Ravens to gather at the facility on Monday and Tuesday despite obvious evidence of an ongoing outbreak. The league wanted to preserve the Thanksgiving night game if it could. That calculated risk apparently backfired; if it keeps the Ravens from playing on Sunday, the Ravens can’t solely be faulted for that.
Far better than a forfeit, the worst-case scenario should entail bumping the game to Week 18. Although that would give both teams no further leeway when it comes to any other COVID-19 issues involving them or their future opponents, it may be the only path to chicken salad.