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NFL players raise concerns on playing, others ignore advice

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FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2020, file photo, Philadelphia Eagles strong safety Malcolm Jenkins speaks with members of the media at the NFL football team's practice facility in Philadelphia. NFLPA president JC Tretter warned players they have to "fight for necessary COVID-19 protections" and Malcolm Jenkins said "football is nonessential." With training camp less than a month away, some players are speaking out about concerns over playing football during a pandemic while others are ignoring medical advice and holding workouts with teammates. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, FIle)

Some NFL players are raising concerns about playing football amid the coronavirus pandemic while others are ignoring advice of medical experts by working out with teammates.

JC Tretter, a center on the Cleveland Browns and president of the NFL Players Association, wrote an open letter to players on Tuesday, saying they have to fight for “necessary COVID-19 protections.”

New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said last week that “football is a nonessential business and so we don’t need to do it.”

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward has asthma so he wants to “take every precaution” if he plays.

“We are not invincible, and as recent reports have shown, we certainly aren’t immune to this virus,” Tretter wrote in his letter. “Underlying conditions like high BMI, asthma and sleep apnea are all associated with a higher risk of developing severe symptoms and complications when infected with COVID-19. Those conditions are widespread across the league. NFL players are humans — some with immuno-compromised family members or live-in elderly parents. Trust me: we want to play football. But as a union, our most important job is keep our players safe and alive. The NFLPA will fight for our most at-risk players and their families.”

The league informed owners last week that training camp is expected to open as scheduled later this month. Discussions regarding shortening the preseason schedule are ongoing and an announcement is expected soon.

Dr. Allen Sills, the league's chief medical officer, said he has regular communication with medical officers of other professional sports leagues and they are learning from one another.

“We’re approaching this as a medical and public health problem,” Sills said Wednesday. “This isn’t about one league having an advantage over another. We’re working together as a group of medical professionals saying how can we do the best job in taking care of our patients in creating the safest possible environments.”