Three weeks removed from the league’s scheduled training camp report date, the NFL and the NFLPA remain at odds over numerous topics related to the ongoing Coronavirus crisis and its potential impact on the 2020 season. The latest issue to be raised was that of economics: according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the league recently presented a proposal that 35 percent of player salaries be held in escrow to help make up for potentially lost revenue this year.
The players association, however, is apparently not thrilled about implementing such a plan. NFLPA senior director of player affairs Don Davis, who spent four years of his playing career with the New England Patriots (2003-06) and later served in a dual role as the organization’s assistant strength and conditioning coach as well as its team chaplain, reportedly told players on a conference call that the response to tell the NFL “to kick rocks.”
The NFLPA’s official stance on the matter is that any deal that would result in salaries being held in escrow must be negotiated considering that it is not part of the new 10-year collective bargaining agreement that was signed in effect in March.
Yesterday’s report is the latest in what seems to be turning into a labor dispute between the league and the player representatives. The question of Covid-19 testing, for example, is also still being debated: while the NFLPA wants daily tests for its players once they return to team facilities for training camp, the NFL would prefer testing up to three times a week as its chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, reemphasized during a conference call last month.
Furthermore, preseason and the training camp report date mentioned above are also still topics of discussion. While the league wants two preseason games to be played instead of the standard four, the NFLPA insists on canceling the exhibition slate altogether in order to give players a longer acclimation period — 48 days were recommended by a joint NFL-NFLPA medial committee — after the entire offseason workout program was moved to a virtual setting.
Just last week, player representatives from all 32 teams unanimously voted to recommend canceling this year’s preseason.
“The NFL has recently stated it wants to play two preseason games. When we asked for a medical reason to play games that don’t count in the standings during an ongoing pandemic, the NFL failed to provide one,” the NFLPA’s president, Cleveland Browns center J.C. Tretter, said in a statement released on Monday. “The league did provide a football reason, though — to evaluate rosters. The NFL also stated that it was important to stage preseason games to check how our game protocols will work.
“Every decision this year that prioritizes normalcy over innovation, custom over science or even football over health, significantly reduces our chances of completing the full season,” Tretter continued. “We don’t want to merely return to work and have the season shut down before we even get started.”