How long will Bill Belichick coach?

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At one point, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said that, unlike Hall of Famer Marv Levy, Belichick won’t be coaching into his 70s. As Belichick inches closer and closer to 70, his stance may have changed.

To start the week that will see Belichick turn 69, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com published recent quotes from Levy regarding the notion of coaching well beyond what once was the retirement age of 65.

Age is only an approximate thing,” Levy told Reiss. “You’re involved and you’re going at it hard, and you love it, that’s it. You just coach as long as you love it. I finally retired [after the 1997 season] because the great core of our team had gotten old, and they were all retiring. And I had it finally. I felt I needed some time away.”

Levy said that, a year or two later, he wondered whether he may have left too early. He later returned to the team, in his 80s, to serve as General Manager in 2006 and 2007.

As noted by Reiss, Belichick has 311 career victories, 13 behind George Halas and 36 behind Don Shula.

In March 2017, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said that he hopes Belichick stays into his 80s, citing men like Warren Buffett and Rupert Murdoch, who continue to thrive well into their ninth decades

Maybe Belichick will stick around a lot longer. In April 2017, as he closed in on turning 65, Belichick said he’s “good for a while.” He separately acknowledge in 2019 that, as he moved even closer to 70, he’s less certain about packing it in.

Halas retired at 73 because of arthritis in his hip, which kept him from handling the physical aspects of the job. Said Halas at the time, “I supposed I began to realize this in one of our final games last season when I started rushing after the referee who was pacing off a penalty and it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t gaining on him. I began to wonder whether the officials were speeding up, or I was slowing down.”

Some have speculated that, if/when Belichick slows down, he eventually could become a V.P. of football operations, possibly with a sliver of equity, for another team. Coaches who take those jobs rarely thrive, however, because they remain coaches at heart. For Belichick, assuming a position atop the football food chain and resisting the urge to micromanage the folks cooking the meals would become the ultimate test of his “do your job” mantra.

So maybe he’ll just keep doing the job he’s doing for as long as he physically can do it.

Jimbo Fisher: Kellen Mond “does all the things you need to judge a first-round player”

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When discussions about this year’s draft turns to quarterbacks, most of the attention is paid to the five players that are generally expected to come off the board early in the first round.

Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance make up that group. Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond is ranked somewhere behind that quintet, but his college coach thinks that Mond belongs at the top of the draft as well.

Jimbo Fisher saw Mond play 36 games and throw for 8,286 yards for the Aggies over the last three years. He said Mond, who also played 10 games before Fisher came to College Station, has steadily improved and thinks “the body of work, the competition he’s played against” merits a high draft choice.

“He does all of the things you need to judge a first-round player,” Fisher said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “He helped change the culture — winning more games, taking a stand, showing he’s a guy who can fight through adversity, took criticism, eliminated any distractions and continued to get better.”

Fisher said he’s spoken to 10-15 teams about Mond and that they like his experience, but we’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to see where that puts him on the draft board.

John Harbaugh says he considered letting Justin Tucker try a 68-yard field goal against the Browns

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One of the best games of the 2020 NFL season ended with Ravens kicker Justin Tucker hitting a 55-yard field goal to beat the Browns. But Ravens coach John Harbaugh says that minutes earlier, Tucker nearly convinced him to let him kick an NFL-record 68-yard field goal.

Harbaugh relayed the story of that game in a discussion with high school coaches on Hudl, and he said that just before quarterback Lamar Jackson returned from the locker room and threw a 44-yard touchdown pass after the two-minute warning, Harbaugh thought he was going to be down to playing wide receiver Willie Snead at quarterback because Jackson had already gone to the locker room and backup quarterback Trace McSorley had just suffered a knee injury.

“Tucker, who always runs right by me when he wants to kick a field goal, comes clicking by me, spins around and looks at me like, ‘Am I kicking the field goal?’ And I look at him and I go, ‘It’s 68 yards.’ He goes, ‘Yeah.’ I go, ‘Can you make it?’ And I think it might be a good idea. He looks at me and he says, ‘I think I’ve got a better chance than Willie.’ And I’m like, ‘I think you might be right,'” Harbaugh recalled.

Fortunately for Harbaugh, at that moment Jackson ran back to the field from the locker room and said, “I got this, coach.”

Harbaugh’s memory of the game wasn’t completely correct, as it actually would have been a 62-yard field goal for Tucker where the Ravens had the ball at the time. But the mere fact that Harbaugh thinks a 68-yard field goal would be a valid idea shows incredible faith in Tucker.

Aaron Wilson acknowledges “lack of sensitivity” to “serious nature” of allegations against Deshaun Watson

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If the aftermath of the news that the Houston Chronicle has parted ways with NFL reporters Aaron Wilson over comments he made on a Boston radio station regarding the Deshaun Watson situation, Wilson has issued a statement via social media.

I made a mistake that I fully understand and own when I did not choose my words nearly carefully enough during a discussion on a March 19 radio program regarding the sensitive, complex and controversial Deshaun Watson legal situation, in the days following the initial filing of the civil lawsuits from women against him,” Wilson wrote. “My efforts to convey perspectives on the situation clearly demonstrated an unintentional lack of sensitivity to the serious nature of these type of allegations, and I sincerely apologize for my remarks. I didn’t maintain my own high standards that I’ve established and applied during my two decades covering many other similarly important and delicate situations in the NFL. I will proceed much more carefully going forward and learn from this moment. I am committed to outstanding journalism now and always.”

It’s unclear why Wilson’s separation from employment came three weeks after the comments were made, or whether other factors influenced the decision, beyond the March 19 remarks.

In the appearance on WEEI, Wilson called the lawsuits a “money grab” and “ambulance chasing.” He also attempted to explain Watson’s approach to pre-litigation settlement efforts by saying “you don’t negotiate with terrorists.” After being accused during the interview of being pro-Watson, Wilson said, “I don’t know them, I know him. I’m not gonna throw the guy under the bus before I have some proof. I don’t feel like I have the proof, just it’s allegations.”

In all, 22 women have sued Watson for misconduct during private massage sessions. Watson has denied wrongdoing. On Friday, his lawyer, Rusty Hardin, admitted that consensual sex sometimes occurred during those encounters.

Taylor Gabriel retires

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Former NFL wide receiver Taylor Gabriel is calling it a career.

Retired,” Gabriel wrote to accompany an Instagram picture of him lounging in his pool. “Undrafted Free Agent Tryout #7Years. Thanks to all my fans and supporters love y’all.”

Gabriel was a free agent who said last year that he decided not to play because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I opted to not play this year with covid,” Gabriel wrote on Twitter at the start of the 2020 season. “I’ve had offers to play but chose my families safety.”

The 30-year-old Gabriel entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie with the Browns in 2014. He later spent two years with the Falcons and two with the Bears. He had his most productive season in 2018 in Chicago, when he caught 67 passes for 688 yards.

Sign up for Peacock, see Wrestlemania 37

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Wrestlemania 37 has arrived. You can see all of the two-night event on Peacock.

Forget about pay-per-view charges or other out-of-pocket costs. Sign up for Peacock and see both nights of Wrestlemania, for only $4.99 per month.

There’s also a free seven-day trial. So you can sign up, watch Wrestlemania 37, and then decide within the next seven days whether you want to incur the minimal monthly charge. (You can still keep Peacock, since much of the content — including PFT Live and PFT PM — are free.)

Beyond Wrestlemania 37, there’s plenty of other WWE content, including all prior Wrestlemania events, back to 1985.

This year’s event happens at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, with limited capacity. There will be unlimited capacity on Peacock, where millions already have signed up and millions more still can.

So do it now. Do it now. Do it now. Wrestlemania 37 starts at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight.

No decision yet on reversal of one-helmet rule

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Last year, the NFL acknowledged that the one-helmet rule could change in 2021. It still could.

Per a league spokesperson, there has been no resolution yet regarding the possibility that teams could be permitted to allow players to use more than one helmet during the course of a given season. That would give teams the ability to incorporate throwback uniforms with helmets of a different color than the base color of the helmet a given team uses.

Titans running back Derrick Henry recently argued for throwback helmets, and fans and players would surely love to do the same. Whether it’s the Oilers helmets (for the Titans), the Tampa Bay creamsicles, the white New England helmets, the plum-colored Packers throwbacks, the kelly green Eagles helmets, the yellow Steelers helmets (actually we could do without that one), and/or the Bengals adopting a white helmets to go with their all-white uniforms, it could enhance the viewing experience and sell plenty of merchandise.

The NFL adopted the one-helmet rule as a health and safety measure. As helmet technology improves, it’s unclear whether having one helmet for every practice and game makes much of a difference, if any.

Should Rusty Hardin have let Deshaun Watson speak on Friday?

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On Friday, attorney Rusty Hardin held his first press conference in connection with the Deshaun Watson cases. Hardin, at the outset of the press conference, acknowledged that he considered having Watson present.

“We toyed with the idea of having him here today,” Hardin said. “So I indicated to some people he might be, and we made a decision just a little while ago that it really wouldn’t add anything because I wasn’t going to allow him to answer any questions. And I think most of you all understand that. You’ve got investigations going on, not just police departments have been asked to look at it, but the NFL. There may be other agencies that look at it.”

Hardin quipped that his malpractice insurance wouldn’t let Hardin allow Watson to speak. That’s an overstatement of the connection between letting a client speak publicly when multiple potential investigations are pending and the commission of legal malpractice. Indeed, plaintiff Ashley Solis spoke publicly on Tuesday regarding her claims against Watson. Attorney Tony Buzbee didn’t commit malpractice in allowing Solis to read a statement without answering questions.

The fact that Solis has provided a name, a face, and a voice to the accusations changed the case. It makes efforts to have third parties vouch for Watson feel incomplete and hollow. Hardin’s press conference nevertheless consisted of multiple lawyers — lawyers who are paid to advocate zealously and thoroughly for Watson — proclaiming to the world that he’s incapable of such behavior.

It’s arguably too late for that tactic in the court of public opinion, and it will never be time for that tactic in a court of law, where the lawyer saying “my client didn’t do it” means absolutely nothing. Watson could have appeared at the press conference and read from a carefully crafted statement that undermines none of his interests, just as Ashley Solis did. Hardin could have refused to let Watson answer questions, just as Buzbee did with Ashley Solis.

Instead, Hardin opted to profess Watson’s innocence via those paid to represent him. Hardin, for example, explained that he sent two lawyers whom he believed to be “instinctively pro-women” to meet with Watson for two days and to report back with their impressions.

“At the end of that time,” Hardin said, “they can speak for themselves, but both of them called back to say, ‘We deeply, deeply do not believe this guy ever did anything non-consensual with any woman during any of this. He didn’t coerce them. We don’t believe he used his position. We don’t believe he intimidated them. We simply do not.’ Were there sometimes consensual encounters? Yes. And will that come out in any kind of litigation or trial? Of course it will, and that’s where it should come out.”

Other lawyers from Watson’s legal team similarly vouched for Watson.

“From the moment that I’ve spent time with this young man, I have no qualms telling you that I stand here unequivocally stating the things that he has been accused of, the things that he has been persecuted for in the public, he simply has not done,” attorney Letitia Quiñones said, before outlining a clean “credit history” for Watson and then chastising those in the media who have “jump[ed] on the bandwagon” against Watson.

Said another lawyer on Watson’s legal team, “This man is not capable of the things that are in the allegations. He is not that man. He is not a sexual predator. And I feel very strongly to say he has not forced, coerced, intimidated, or threatened any woman to do anything to him.”

Again, none of these statements will matter in court. And no one should be surprised that the lawyers paid to represent Watson will declare publicly that he didn’t do it. That’s what lawyers do.

On Friday, Watson could have appeared at the press conference. He could have read from a statement. He could have carefully avoided anything that could or would be used against him in court. He could have answered the decision of Ashley Solis to put a face and voice on the allegations with a face and voice on the defense against them.

Watson could have done it. Hardin made the tactical decision, for whatever reason, not to have Watson do it. Tying the decision to not allow Watson to answer questions or to avoid jeopardizing Hardin’s malpractice insurance doesn’t explain the strategy to opt for lawyers declaring that Watson is innocent instead of letting Watson do so himself through comments carefully written and vetted to ensure that the things Watson would have said on Friday would not have come back to haunt him later.

Phillip Adams’ brain will be studied for CTE

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Earlier this week, former NFL defensive back Phillip Adams shot and killed five people before killing himself. Adams’ father said that “football messed him up.” Scientists will take a closer look at that specific question.

Via the Associated Press, the brain of Phillip Adams will be tested for Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy, a degenerative condition that potentially can cause cognitive disorders and other problems.

On Friday, York County, South Carolina coroner Sabrina Gast said Friday in a statement that Phillip Adams’ family has authorized that the autopsy include a search for CTE. The Medical University of South Carolina will work in conjunction with Boston University, which researches the issue of CTE.

U.S. Representative Ralph Norman has claimed that the shooting of Dr. Robert Lesslie and four others resulted from Dr. Lesslie’s refusal to give Adams medication.

Drafted in 2010, Adams played for the 49ers, Patriots, Seahawks, Raiders, Jets, and Falcons in a career that lasted through 2015.

Report: Comments regarding Deshaun Watson cost Houston Chronicle reporter Aaron Wilson his job

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The Deshaun Watson controversy has resulted in someone losing his job, and it wasn’t Deshaun Watson.

Diana Moskovitz and Kalyn Kahler of Defector.com report that Aaron Wilson no longer works for the Houston Chronicle due to comments made last month regarding the situation on WEEI radio in Boston.

Wilson, in an interview that remains available online, called the lawsuits against Watson a “money grab” and “ambulance chasing.” Wilson also used an unfortunate, inaccurate, and ill-advised term while clumsily attempting to explain Watson’s approach to the efforts to resolve the claims before the first lawsuit was filed.

“In his case, you know, it’s kind of like you don’t, you know, you don’t negotiate with terrorists,” Wilson said, attempting to explain the notion that players with impeccable reputations are more likely to pay to make allegations like this go away. “You know, people are demanding money, they’re asking for money. The — it kept escalating, it kept going up and up and up. And you start talking about more and more funds, I’m not gonna say how much it got to. But my understanding is, you know, that there was an admission that, it was, you know, something, you know, just that this was, you know, just a money grab.”

Wilson seemed to be passing along the mindset of Watson’s camp. Wilson should have been far more clear in doing so; his choice of words made it seem like he believed what they believed.

Wilson also vouched for Watson’s character and said that attorney Tony Buzbee’s behavior in rounding up more accusers is “looked down upon.” Wilson added that he’s skeptical about the claims.

The interview happened very early in the process, before Buzbee even had his first press conference. At the time, there weren’t many accusers and there were legitimate questions about Buzbee’s tactics and the evidence he had offered up publicly. For example, the night before Wilson’s appearance, Buzbee had posted some social-media messages from Watson that hardly amounted to smoking guns of guilt.

“I don’t know them, I know him,” Wilson said after being accused by host Greg Hill of being pro-Watson. “I’m not gonna throw the guy under the bus before I have some proof. I don’t feel like I have the proof, just it’s allegations.”

Wilson also wrote last month a lengthy feature in which friends and associates said that they couldn’t believe the allegations in the lawsuits. On WEEI, Wilson said that the Texans didn’t believe the allegations and that, as to players and teammates, “No one wants to think this of him, and they’re all saying privately to me, ‘Aaron, we’d be shocked if this was true.'”

Per Moskovitz and Kahler, the Chronicle held a sports staff meeting on Friday during which editor Reid Laymance said that Wilson was no longer employed by the publication. Although no specifics regarding the move were shared during the meeting, Chronicle executive editor Steve Riley sent a memo to the entire newsroom regarding the handling of the Watson case.

“The sexual assault allegations against Deshaun Watson bring those standards front and center,” Riley wrote, per Defector.com. “This note serves as a reminder that as we report, analyze and describe those allegations, those who bring them and the person they are brought against, we must approach the story with fairness and care toward all involved. Given the frequency of content we are creating, on a growing number of print and digital channels, our editors must also be more vigilant with our oversight of coverage on all platforms. . . . Facts are good. Analysis is OK. Opinion, speculation or baseless assertions are not. We won’t tolerate that sort of commentary.”

It’s likely that Wilson’s “you don’t negotiate with terrorists” line tipped the scales against him. It also would have been prudent for Wilson to clearly separate his beliefs (or to refrain from even having beliefs) from the strong, and frankly predictable, opinions held by those close to Watson. Wilson would have had no basis whatsoever to come to any such conclusions on his own so early in the process; even now, there’s insufficient evidence to make firm decisions one way or the other as to whether Watson did what he’s accused of doing.

Wilson’s role as a reporter and not a print/web/radio/TV opinion-generator also contributed to the situation. Given the obvious conflicts that arise when it comes to Wilson’s reporter function of maintaining access to Watson and his representatives, associates, friends, etc., Wilson’s broader business interests would not have been served by expressing skepticism of Watson based on the first few claims that had been made as of the morning of March 19. Unfortunately for Wilson, he went way too far in expressing skepticism of the claims being made against Watson.

The email from the Chronicle to all staff also pointed out that media appearances can happen only with the permission of a supervisor. This implies that Wilson agreed to appear on WEEI without securing such advance permission. If he had done so, he may have received some important advice that would have allowed him to more artfully navigate the minefield that he willingly entered by agreeing to speak extemporaneously about the situation on live radio.

Alternatively, Wilson may have gotten an answer that would have helped him avoid this entire mess: Don’t do the interview.

NFL now says Cody Ford block that drew big flag in playoff game was legal

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In overtime of a playoff loss in January of 2020, Bills lineman Cody Ford was hit with a huge penalty for an illegal blindside block that knocked Buffalo out of field goal range. At the time, rules experts said it was a bad call, but the NFL insisted it was the correct call, even fining Ford for it.

Now? Not.

The NFL is now saying Ford’s block was legal, even using it as an example of a legal block in an officiating video released on Friday. In the video, NFL Senior VP of Officiating Training and Development Walt Anderson says Ford’s block didn’t meet the “forcible” standard that is required for a flag to be thrown.

“Back towards his own end line, and again just makes really more of a nudge block,” Anderson says as Ford’s block is shown. “Not the type of forcible contact threshold that has to be met for a blindside block rule.”

No explanation is given for why the NFL is now using Ford’s block as an example of a legal block if it was worthy of a 15-yard penalty and fine in last year’s postseason.

The call was a big one: If it hadn’t been called, the Bills would have been able to try a 56-yard field goal to win the game. Instead they were pushed out of field goal range, punted, and the Texans won the game with a field goal on the ensuing possession.

Derrick Henry: Single digits are cool, but bring back throwback helmets

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Titans running back Derrick Henry wore the No. 2 jersey at Alabama and during the preseason of his rookie year, so he might be a player who would appreciate the new NFL rule proposal that would let running backs wear single-digit numbers. But Henry has a higher priority.

Henry called for a return to throwbacks, including throwback helmets, which the NFL has banned.

“Single digits cool & all, but can we bring the throwback jerseys & helmets back? Somebody put in a request for that,” Henry wrote on Twitter.

In 2013, the NFL eliminated the throwback helmets that many teams had worn by ruling that players must wear their regular helmets throughout the season, and that the outside of the helmet could only be modified by removing or replacing decals. Throwback jerseys remain, but many throwback uniforms don’t look as good without the helmets to match.

Last year, the NFL told PFT that the one-helmet rule was under review, and could change in 2021. There has been no announcement about that this year, but Henry would support it.

Tony Buzbee fires back at Rusty Hardin’s claims on behalf of Deshaun Watson

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During his first press conference on behalf of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, attorney Rusty Hardin made a significant admission. Hardin acknowledged that some of the massages Watson arranged eventually became consensual sexual encounters.

On Friday night, attorney Tony Buzbee, representative of the 22 women suing Watson in civil court, responded on social media.

I respect attorney Rusty Hardin,” Buzbee said. “He’s one of the best lawyers our great state has to offer. He’s a true legend. He is a colleague, and I consider him a friend. I hope he agrees. But today he conceded that his client gets two to three massages a week — that equates to more than a 150 massages yearly — outside the vast Texans organization that has trainers and massage therapists, etc. Watson sought these women out, according to the admissions of Mr. Hardin, via social media, particularly Instagram. Most if not all of the different women Watson reached out to by direct message. I think we can all agree that is a bit strange.

“But here is my problem: Mr. Hardin, in his press conference, also stated that, from his client’s perspective, some or more of these massage interactions with my clients, both licensed and unlicensed therapists, became sexual because they were ‘consensual.’ NO.

“I can tell you from my clients’ perspectives THESE INTERACTIONS WERE NOT CONSENSUAL. ‘No’ means no. That’s all.”

The public back and forth between Buzbee and Hardin undoubtedly will continue. Despite some missteps of his own, Buzbee for the most part has been winning the battle in the court of public opinion.

Aaron Rodgers caps a solid first week at Jeopardy! guest host

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Whether he retires, makes off-day trips to Los Angeles during the season, or loads up with show tapings before training camp and during the bye week, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers may soon have a decision to make. Based on his performance through five episodes as the guest-host of Jeopardy!, Rodgers could indeed end up being offered the job as the permanent new host of the show.

Rodgers at first seemed like he was simply emulating Alex Trebek. By the end of the week, however, it seemed like Rodgers had evolved to being himself, which usually is the best way to be.

Rodgers has been smooth, loose, and funny without overdoing it. He dropped a “Turd Ferguson” on Tuesday and he made a weed reference on Wednesday.

Rodgers also seemed to take well the ribbing over the fateful field-goal decision in the NFC Champion, shedding the reputation that he’s so sensitive that he’s sensitive about being called sensitive.

Like Michael Strahan when he decided he wanted to succeed Regis Philbin on morning TV, Rodgers has opted to be very open, direct, and candid regarding his desire to secure the gig. That mindset may be a product of playing football, where aggression and confidence are prerequisites to success.

Regardless, Rodgers has the chops for the job. That, coupled with the drive to secure it, could be enough to make it happen. At this point, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t have to figure out how to balance his football career with the possibility of his game-shot dream job.

NFLPA will have a hard time getting veterans to skip offseason workouts

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For the NFLPA, in-season work stoppages don’t work, because no players want to lose game checks. An offseason boycott also may not work, because veterans players won’t want to risk losing the ability to earn game checks.

Although union leadership reportedly is recommending a boycott of on-field offseason workouts, there’s a good chance the boycott will fail. Incoming draft picks and undrafted rookies, none of whom are currently members of the union, will relish the opportunity to develop without veterans there to consume key reps. And if young players show that they can be trusted, they will have a better chance to supplant older and more expensive veterans on the 53-man roster — especially if those veterans choose not to participate in offseason workouts.

Beyond the players with six-figure payments tied to showing up for the vast majority of the voluntary workouts, players with six- and seven-figure base salaries will want to protect their turf by showing up, getting in shape, receiving practice reps, and more importantly keeping rookies and other unproven players from earning first-team opportunities.

Union leadership ostensibly is concerned about the pandemic. Given, however, the manner in which the NFL has proven that it can effectively co-exist with the virus, it’s hard to think that players would become less safe working out at team facilities than they would be while working out on their own.

Remember, the union primarily is run by older players. Older players naturally benefit from the lack of offseason reps for everyone. In this year, with a drastically reduced salary cap that could make teams more inclined to entrust key roles to younger, cheaper players, it makes sense that older players would prefer young players to have no offseason chances to learn the ropes.

Thus, the challenge for the union becomes persuading young players who would benefit most from showing up when veterans don’t to agree to stay away. Given the unique realities of pro football’s rank and file, it’s unlikely that players who otherwise face getting cut in September will sacrifice their ability to enhance their standing by participating in any and all offseason workouts.