The NFL and its players association took a major step toward playing the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported the sides finalized the collective bargaining agreement for the 2020 campaign. The finalized deal "resolved all outstanding issues" from what the league and players agreed to 10 days ago.
Among the notable developments was a discipline schedule from the NFL Management Council that will punish players for "high-risk COVID-19 conduct":
Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero
The NFL Management Council just sent clubs an updated discipline schedule, including fines and suspensions for “High Risk COVID-19 conduct,” such as going to clubs, bars and house parties without PPE. No longer labeled High Risk in the final deal: Church. https://t.co/0lntiBNZYS
Pelissero noted all Tier 1 and Tier 2 non-player club employees, including coaches, can be disciplined for violating the COVID-19 rules. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can also punish teams that do not discipline violators.
On Tuesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network shared the two side letters agreed to by the league and players:
Such rules come as Major League Baseball has dealt with multiple COVID-19 outbreaks on the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals in the early portion of its season, which has led to a number of games being postponed.
Grant Gordon of NFL.com summarized more of Pelissero's reports, noting the deadline for players to decide whether they will opt out of the season is Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. The drug-testing window starts Friday, although players cannot be suspended but only fined if they test positive for substances of abuse as part of the new policy.
Players who have family or medical emergencies can opt out at later dates.
Under the agreement, players who are considered higher health risks and opt out will receive a $350,000 stipend. Those who voluntarily opt out will receive a $150,000 salary advancement and have their contracts roll to 2021.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noted the league wanted to move the opt-out deadline up because teams were worried players on the roster bubble would choose the stipend and agents would use the threat of opting out to land their clients new deals.
This all comes with the season approximately one month away.
While preseason games were canceled amid the pandemic, the regular season is scheduled to start Sept. 10 with a playoff rematch between the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.