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Safety and money loom as biggest issues for NFL 2020 season

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Rumbles from the players around the 2020 season are concerning.

NFL: DEC 22 Steelers at Jets Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While the NFL continues to plan for the season to start with training camps opening on July 28, that may be a bit of magical thinking on their part. As reported by Charles Robinson at Yahoo Sports, there is no agreement in place with the players to make that happen. What it breaks down to are a lot of unresolved issues that must be formally agreed to by the NFLPA.

The money — whether it’s the pay of players in 2020 or the impact on future salary caps — has to be bargained out.

The COVID-19 testing regimens have to be bargained out.

The protocols about how camps can be run on a daily basis has to be bargained out.

The safety protocols beyond testing have to be bargained out.

Equipment changes, such as mandatory face shields, have to be bargained out.

And maybe above all else, players have to be convinced the NFL has done everything possible to guarantee their safety.

That’s a lot to accomplish in less than three weeks. And it might be impossible. It might mean a late start for training camp. It might mean no preseason games. And it might lead to a delay in the regular season, something the NFL absolutely does not want, evidenced by an offseason that ran largely on time, albeit in a different form than past years.

The league has been trying to push ahead on the season with a confidence that seems questionable, and the players are bringing up some serious concerns.

The priorities aren’t even the same for the league and the NFLPA, as the owners are primarily concerned about revenue while health is what really creates anxiety for the players.

The NFL floated a proposal to hold back 35% of the players’ salaries to help offset revenue losses, which of course went over like the proverbial lead balloon.

We all know how crucial an issue money is for the NFL, and how it has led to some acrimonious negotiations in the past. This was supposed to be the beginning of a new decade of labor peace for the league and players, but now it threatens to be just one more thing blown apart by the pandemic.

At least dollars are a concrete thing that can be handled with formulas and counting. The virus is something else entirely. As hard as both sides work to reach an agreement, dealing with a disease like COVID-19 bring no guarantees.

As Robinson notes, even if there are solutions to the problems, getting them proposed and agreed upon in the less than three weeks remaining before the report date may be impossible. The level of trust between the two sides is certainly less than optimal. While the players may be mostly eager to get to work and have those paychecks start coming during the regular season, that may not be enough to make things happen.

The even bigger question of whether the spread of the virus can be contained at all in football is one that cannot be determined until it is actually tried. If that goes wrong, the implications are dire.

The NFL might be trying to project optimism about a 2020 season, but the likelihood of it happening is still in doubt.