Top NFL stars are concerned about player safety amid the coronavirus pandemic with teams close to reporting to training camps.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt were among the players who discussed the challenges:
Rookies are expected to report to camp July 21, followed by quarterbacks. Injured players will report July 23 and all other players on July 28, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. The NFL and NFLPA are still in discussions about protocols to keep team personnel safe, but there has been no official agreement.
Unlike the NBA or NHL, which is using "bubble" environments to keep players safe, the NFL plans to go forward with usual travel and players returning to their own homes, potentially putting family members at risk.
Former player and NFLPA executive board member Lorenzo Alexander has called for daily testing.
"It's more than just the player. It's the coaches, it's the front office, the medical personnel, trainers, equipment staff," Alexander said on The Pat McAfee Show, per the Buffalo News. "We have to make sure we are tested daily and we are going home every day. We are not in a bubble. I have to go home and my wife might be working or my kids might be going to school."
Another major issue on the table is the potential for players to opt out of the season in the name of safety, a policy MLB adopted for the upcoming year.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the league is offering an opt-out for players by Aug. 1, but they must remain out all season long. They would receive a stipend, but it works as an advance for their 2021 salary. There is also a provision preventing holdouts in 2021.
This all comes with COVID-19 cases on the rise in key states like Texas and Florida, per Johns Hopkins. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 138,000 have already died from the disease in the United States.
"We have one question that encapsulates it all: Does it make sense for the NFL to open up training camps in 'hot spot' cities right now?" a person familiar with the NFLPA's views said last week, per Mark Maske of the Washington Post.
These questions remain unanswered even with players set to report to camp this week.