The NFL Players Association wants players tested daily for coronavirus, one of the outstanding points in discussions with the NFL over health and safety protocols as the start of training camp draws near.
“We believe daily testing is important, especially given some of these hot spots,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said Friday, referring to states with increasing numbers of coronavirus cases. “We don’t right now plan on changing that position.”
The league and the union already finalized protocols regarding team travel, media, and treatment response, and updated the facilities protocol to specifically address training camp based on recommendations from a joint committee of doctors, trainers and strength coaches formed by the league and players’ union. The committee recommended testing every other day.
NFLPA president JC Tretter, a center for the Cleveland Browns, called an “emergency” meeting Thursday night with head team doctors from clubs in hot spot cities to discuss whether it’s safe to start camp. Rookies for Houston and Kansas City are set to report on Monday. Players from all teams report by July 28.
“They gave their medical opinion it was safe to open training camp, and that’s where we are,” Smith said.
If the league and union fail to reach an agreement, the NFL can implement its proposed rules, according to the CBA. The NFLPA could file a grievance to argue the league isn’t providing a safe work environment under rules of the collective bargaining agreement.
“The league is management,” Smith said. “They have the exclusive right, just like somebody who owns a plant, regarding when it opens and when it closes. They want training camps to open on time. The role of the union is to hold them accountable about whether it’s safe to open now. ... We are all trying to get to the right decision more so than getting to the fast decision.”
An acclimation period for players is another main sticking point. The union wants 45 days per the joint committee’s recommendation. The breakdown would be 21 days strength and conditioning, 10 days of non-padded practices, then 14 days of contact to get ready for games. Also, the union doesn’t want to play any preseason games while the NFL had planned to cut the exhibition schedule from four games to two.