With not even three weeks to go until teams are scheduled to report to training camp, the NFL and the NFLPA are still in discussions how to safely maneuver through the summer and the ensuing regular season in light of the ongoing Coronavirus crisis. One potential tool that could be implemented to ensure players’ safety this year was reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero earlier this week: giving players an opt-out for the 2020 season.
“My understanding is both the union and the league intend to have an opt-out for players who have either a pre-existing condition, family with pre-existing conditions, just general concerns over Covid-19, would not want to play this season,” Pelissero said on air about the plan. “General managers were told on a call earlier this week there would be a specific date by which players would need to opt-out. That date is still to be determined.”
The details of such an opt-out will obviously still have yet to be worked out — be it in terms of salary, roster status and free agency credit — but the tool itself would add considerable intrigue to what has developed into a labor dispute of sorts.
The NFL and the NFLPA, for example, remain at odds about the procedures of training camp and preseason: the players union has advocated for canceling preseason, whereas the league wants two games to be played. Furthermore, the two sides are currently in disagreement when it comes to the frequency of Covid-19 testing as well as a league proposal that 35 percent of players salaries be held in escrow to make up for a potential loss in revenue this year.
The opt-out, meanwhile, seems to enjoy support on both sides of the negotiating table.
So, what would this mean for the New England Patriots in particular? As mentioned by Pelissero, players with pre-existing conditions could decide to sit out the season — and the Patriots do have a candidate to fall under this category: starting center David Andrews, who missed the entire 2019 season after blood clots were discovered in his lungs. The 27-year-old has since been cleared to return to the field, but the circumstances surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic make him a player to watch when it comes to a potential opt-out.