There has always been a pool of players willing to risk life and limb available to the NFL, from elite players to semipro players chasing a dream. The money is good, in some cases obscenely good, and combined with the love of the game, it makes for a most seductive siren call for the legions …
There has always been a pool of players willing to risk life and limb available to the NFL, from elite players to semipro players chasing a dream.
The money is good, in some cases obscenely good, and combined with the love of the game, it makes for a most seductive siren call for the legions of players hungering for a fix for their addiction.
For a long time, certainly until head trauma injuries became a growing concern in the past decade, safety was not at the forefront of NFL priorities the way it should have been. For legal and sensible reasons, it has moved to address those concerns … too late, unfortunately, for Steelers Hall of Famer Mike Webster (CTE), too late for Dave Duerson and Junior Seau, who committed suicide, too late for a linebacker named Chris Borland, who retired five years ago at age 24.
But here we are in the grip of a raging pandemic that has continued to confound the best and brightest health and science minds, and with the death toll around 140,000 in this country alone and counting, a sport all too appealing to a highly contagious virus, and prominent players on Sunday deciding to issue a social media plea to the owners:
We Want To Play But We Want To Be Safe.
In other words: Better safe than sorry.
Is this a negotiating tactic?
Or does it signal a lack of trust between the players and owners?
It is both.
That it comes at a time when players are scheduled to begin reporting for training camp by July 28 … when Chiefs and Texans rookies are due to report on Monday …
Is this predictable brinkmanship?
Or is it a worrisome development that could complicate, if not delay and endanger, the NFL season #WeWantToWatch?
It is both.
Stop the Madness!
From Patrick Mahomes to Drew Brees to Myles Garrett to Carson Wentz to Jarvis Landry to Demarcus Lawrence to so many others came a Twitter blitz that decried the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols as ranging from unsatisfactory to dangerous.
Lawrence: “How has the @NFL had this long to prep but still have NO real plan in place? We are less than 10 days before we are REQUIRED to report! I refuse to put my pregnant wife/family at risk w/o understanding exactly what the plan for our safety & well being will be.”
Of course the NFL has a real plan.
It is an elaborate plan.
But a big part of the problem is that the league, for whatever reason, has not effectively communicated that plan to the players.
There is no vaccine. Only educated guesses about who might be vulnerable and at risk.
It is more of a life-and-death issue for football than it is in any other sport.
Of course the NFL does have protocol safeguards in place. It would be malpractice if the league did not, and the league knows it better than anyone.
But the players still have legitimate concerns the league should address, and NOW.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell listened to the players when they made that compelling Black Lives Matter video following the death of George Floyd while in police custody, and now players — black and white — are reminding him that their lives matter playing a 60-minute collision sport that requires blocking and tackling and huddling.
Stefon Diggs: “If #AdamSilver can respect the voices and protect his @NBA players why can’t @nflcommish do the same? Listen to your players. If we want to have a full season it will have to look different with OUR safety as the priority. @NFL make the necessary changes.”
The NFL, even with its contact tracing implementation, even with tracking devices on players, should bend on its plan to test players three times a week and agree to daily testing.
And the league should scrap the preseason games.
The risk is not worth the reward.
I’ll let the two sides work to reach agreement on the remaining issues — the opt-out clause and acclimation period among them — and the economics.
No one wants this to be a repeat of the ugly feud between MLB owners and players that was resolved with a 60-game season.
Anything but that.
NFL: Don’t do this to yourself. Don’t do this to us. Don’t play with our emotions. You want to play. You all agree on that.