Players plead with NFL to address health concerns with training camps set to open
NFL players are publicly pleading with the league to address several health and safety concerns on the eve of training camp.
The league informed teams on Saturday that training camps would open on time even though discussions with the players’ union regarding testing for the coronavirus and other health and safety protocols were ongoing.
Rookies for Houston and Kansas City are set to report Monday, and rookies for other teams are due Tuesday. Players for all teams are scheduled to report by July 28.
Many prominent players expressed their thoughts in a social media blitz Sunday.
“We need Football! We need sports! We need hope!” Saints quarterback Drew Brees wrote on Twitter. “The NFL’s unwillingness to follow the recommendations of their own medical experts will prevent that. If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. Get it done @NFL.”
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson says he’s concerned because his wife, Ciara, is pregnant.
He wrote: “My wife is pregnant. @NFL Training camp is about to start.. And there’s still No Clear Plan on Player Health & Family Safety. We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones. #WeWantToPlay.”
DeMaurice Smith, the NFL Players Assn. executive director, and the union’s president, JC Tretter, addressed the group’s concerns in a 90-minute videoconference call with reporters on Friday.
They want players tested daily for the virus. A joint committee of doctors, trainers and strength coaches formed by the NFL and NFLPA recommended testing every other day.
Other outstanding issues include the number of preseason games. The league has planned to cut the exhibition schedule from four games to two, but the union wants none.
Players also wanted a 45-day acclimation period to help avoid injuries. The league asked them to report early, but the union declined. Questions remain on protections for players who want to opt out of playing.
All 32 teams have sent the union their so-called infectious disease emergency response plans, which have been approved by joint infectious disease experts and NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills, according to a person familiar with the details. The person, speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because protocols haven’t been finalized, said the union had approved several and continued to review them.
On Friday, the league sent players and teams an “education protocol” for camp that requires clubs to distribute joint educational materials and to conduct educational sessions for players, staff and family members.
Tretter, a center for the Browns, wrote: “What you are seeing today is our guys standing up for each other and for the work their union leadership has done to keep everyone as safe as possible. The NFL needs to listen to our union and adopt the experts’ recommendations #wewanttoplay.”
Under the collective bargaining agreement, the NFL has the right to impose report dates and teams can fine players who don’t report.
The NFLPA could file a grievance to argue the league isn’t providing a safe work environment under the labor deal.
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