As the clock ticks toward NFL training camps, players continue to express anxiety over what exactly the league’s plan is to address playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
J.J. Watt turned up the pressure on the NFL on Thursday. The five-time Houston Texans All-Pro pass rusher tweeted a list of specific concerns based on recent calls with the NFL Players Association.
In short, Watt says that players want to play, but they remain in the dark about basic COVID-19 planning. Meanwhile, training camp is on the horizon. Rookies are scheduled to report on July 19 with full camps scheduled to start July 28.
Watt’s already threatened to sit out
Thursday wasn’t the first time Watt has expressed concern over the league’s planned coronavirus season. He said earlier in July that he was worried about being required to use a face shield and might sit out if there’s a mandate.
Behind closed doors, Watt’s joined Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers and others on NFLPA calls in asking what the plan is. Now he’s taking those issues public with specifics.
Preseason status remains unclear
On July 1, the NFL reportedly made plans to cut the preseason in half from four games to two. Reports immediately followed questioning that plan, noting player desire to cut the preseason out entirely.
According to Watt, there’s no clarity on that front as preseason games remain scheduled to start on Aug. 13.
How will league protect players?
Watt also says that players are in the dark on what the plan is in case of a COVID-19 emergency. They don’t know what basic preventative health protocols will look like. They don’t know how inevitable COVID-19 infections will impact rosters and contracts. They don’t know what training camp will look like less than two weeks out.
These issues have been on the table
Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson reported on July 10 that many of these unresolved issues were being discussed among players then in addition to significant differences between players and owners over how to share the burden of the financial impact of the pandemic.
Six days later, it sounds like no progress has been made.
The league has reportedly implemented a ban on postgame jersey exchanges. So there’s that.
The bottom line in terms of player safety is that there’s no simple answer for protecting players during a pandemic involving an airborne disease. There’s no such thing as social distancing in tackle football. COVID-19 risk is inherent.
Those hoping for the NFL to come up with a cure-all should brace themselves for disappointment.
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