As Matt Chambers wrote earlier today, training camp is set to kick off July 28 and the NFL doesn’t appear to have a robust plan in place. The league appears to be counting on figuring out things as they go along, and that a healthy percentage of fans are going to blame the players if they balk, which I’ve already seen in the comments of this very site, and a lot of other places besides.
The players are pushing back on that narrative before it gels, and understandably so. We all want an NFL season in the fall, but the simple fact is that without concrete plans for testing, quarantines, and how rosters will be augmented and long-term absences handled, the season is likely to fall apart well before it’s scheduled to end. Players can show up in droves to play, but once things start going awry as they inevitably will, nothing short of a solid, well-executed plan for all those scenarios and more is going to get the NFL through the bad times. Even that may not be enough.
In light of that, and in light of the increasing reports that the league does not have its stuff together, players put out a coordinated blitz on social media Sunday, including some high-profile Falcons.
I know you guys want to see football this year but we need the NFL to step up and create safer work environments for the players #WeWantToPlay— Grady Jarrett (@GradyJarrett) July 19, 2020
I SECOND THIS! 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. https://t.co/bepNjRiml0— DeMarcus Lawrence (@TankLawrence) July 19, 2020
The players are not the only ones who feel this way, Per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, general managers across the league are adamant that they don’t want coaches and players in team facilities without better planning, something that seems unlikely to materialize in nine days before training camp kicks off.
It’s utterly baffling that the NFL has not advanced more concrete proposals to this point, given that they had a significant head start on MLB and NBA. Both leagues are now moving forward despite significant postponements and other challenges, just as the NFL is hoping to do now. Somehow, the league seemed to believe COVID-19 would be less of an issue by the time the season kicked off, and unfortunately that’s not the case, as Aaron Freeman wrote today.
It’s clear the NFL hoped all along that they could simply wait out Covid-19 and eventually it would just go away, but it was also clear more than a month ago that wasn’t gonna happen, which is why it feels like they’ve spent that time twiddling their thumbs.— Aaron Freeman (@falcfans) July 19, 2020
The good news, if you’re looking for good news, is that the players are cranking up the pressure because they very obviously want to play. The NFL has nine days to start rolling out real plans the NFLPA will embrace and get ready to play some kind of regular season in 2020, and we know they’ve at least been kicking around ideas throughout the summer. It’s time to stop dawdling, playing coy, or both and start figuring things out before it’s far, far too late to do so.