The NFL’s offseason plan during the coronavirus pandemic worked better than anyone could have expected. Many said the virtual draft would be filled with glitches but it was completed with few issues. The league required teams to close their facilities but then allowed virtual offseason programs that enabled coaches to communicate with players.
The important thing was the NFL had the luxury of time. While the NHL and NBA had to put their seasons on hold, and Major League Baseball had to delay its start, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his league had four months to work through matters before training camps were set to start in late July. The NFL also had the ability to watch the fight between MLB and the MLB Players Association and realize how bad that looked, especially during a time when so many have been impacted by COVID-19.
So what did the gift of time help the NFL learn? Maybe, nothing.
Vikings linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks were among a large group of players who took to Twitter on Sunday in a coordinated effort to urge the league to pay more attention to its experts’ guidelines on safely starting training camps with COVID-19 continuing to be a major concern.
Among the players tweeting were JC Tretter, the president of the NFL Players Association; Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes; Seattle’s Russell Wilson; Cleveland’s Myles Garrett; New Orleans’ Drew Brees; and Atlanta’s Todd Gurley. Many of the players used the hashtag #WeWantToPlay.
I just want to play football with my teammates but we need the @NFL to step up and create a safe work environment for us! #wewanttoplay
— Eric Kendricks (@EricKendricks54) July 19, 2020
I want to play football and I know the fans want to watch football this year! For that to happen, we need the @NFL to step up and create a safe work environment for us players! #wewanttoplay pic.twitter.com/50oeWK5V33
— Anthony Barr (@AnthonyBarr) July 19, 2020
Former Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who was traded to Buffalo in March, also expressed his frustrations and concerns.
This is the ultimate safety and fairness issue that anyone can imagine. To be clear, we want to play. But, we also want to protect ourselves and our families. As players, we take health risk in this game everyday. But we’ve never imagine having to take those risk to our families.
— DIGGS (@stefondiggs) July 19, 2020
The NFL informed teams via e-mail on Saturday that training camps would start on time, despite the fact there remain several key health points that players feel have yet to be addressed. Rookies for Houston and Kansas City have been told to report to training camp on Monday — those teams are reporting early because they will play the Sept. 10 regular-season opener — and the majority of teams (including the Vikings) are supposed to report on July 28.
The players’ unhappiness with the league came after the NFLPA’s executive committee held a conference call with nearly 50 of its highest-profile players on Wednesday, according to ESPN. The call was intended to inform players on where matters stood as training camps neared, but there were issues in which they did not get answers on what they considered to be simple questions.
ESPN reported Sunday there are likely to be more meetings between the NFL and its players association this week. Issues remain things such as how the league will handle practices, testing, opt-out clauses and other issues that players do not believe have been agreed upon. The NFLPA, for instance, wants no preseason games to be played and daily testing.