Sports News

NFL, union gear up for additional talks

The NFL said in a statement issued Friday that progress has been made toward safely playing amid the coronavirus pandemic but acknowledged not all issues have been settled with the players union.

FILE PHOTO: The NFL logo is pictured at an event in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

“NFL clubs met today via videoconference and received an update on preparations for the 2020 season,” the league said. “We will continue to implement the health and safety protocols developed jointly with the NFLPA, and based on the advice of leading medical experts, including review by the CDC. We will address additional issues in a cooperative way. All decisions will be made in an effort to put us in position to play a full regular season and postseason culminating with the Super Bowl which is the shared goal of the clubs and the players.”

The statement did not address the issues that remain to be settled, but they are known to include additional health protocols and financial measures.

DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said in a video call with reporters that consistent testing will be non-negotiable.

“We believe daily testing is important, especially given some of these hot spots,” Smith said, referring to the numerous NFL cities experiencing a sharp increase in coronavirus cases. “We don’t right now plan on changing that position.”

Atlanta, Phoenix, Houston and the entire state of Florida are among the NFL markets that have experienced a surge in the virus.

Smith said the NFLPA called “an emergency meeting” Thursday night with team doctors in the most-affected regions, and the medical professionals said it was safe to begin football.

Camps are scheduled to open July 28, but rookies will report Monday to several teams, even as the negotiations continue. Players can file a grievance to delay the start of training camps and use the reason of workplace conditions not being up to standards if COVID-19 protocols are still unsettled. The NFLPA has indicated it would seek to stop camps once a player files a complaint.

“One positive test late in the week [could derail] an entire team because all the people who were close contacts need to get through the protocols to make sure they’re not sick and transmitting this virus to everyone around them,” players association president and Browns center J.C. Tretter said.

“You don’t have enough bodies to put on the field.”

In his videoconference on Friday, Smith also had a message for football fans: Everyone needs to wear a mask if they want to watch football this fall.

“What’s good for the country is good for sports,” Smith said. “Something as simple as wearing a mask will have probably the most significant impact on the extent and whether sport returns in this country.”

The NFLPA released a statement Friday afternoon saying the players shouldn’t have to take both increased physical risk, and increased financial risk.

“We know that players are taking all of the risk by returning to work. We also know there will be a shortfall in revenues next year,” the statement read. “We are bargaining for fair and reasonable ways to soften the short term economic losses in our business.

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