The COVID-19 epidemic has affected all Americans in every aspect of life. Many folks are working from home, whereas hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs.
Add “undrafted free agents” and “late round draft picks” to that list.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, yesterday the NFL offered to rescind the two remaining preseason games and today that was confirmed. Kaput. Ousted. A memory.
NFL offered the NFLPA today to play zero preseason games this summer, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 20, 2020
The NFL and the NFLPA had been going back-and-forth on the preseason issue. The NFL wanted a full slate of games whereas the Player’s Union wanted all of those games cut from the 2020 season. The NFL had come back with elimination of two games, but the other two would be played.
The NFLPA’s stance was that there needed to be a longer acclimation period during the coronvirus pandemic in order to keep all the players and coaches safe. The Union has pushed for more testing procedures, disease tracing and treatment protocols; which they felt were critical in order to return to practice with the best opportunity to actually play live games.
Yesterday, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed upon daily virus testing for players which have tested positive for COVID-19 twice already administered into a 72-hour window.
Before the NFL canceled their entire slate of preseason games, the league wanted to cut the exhibition games to just a single contest to be played on August 27. According to league sources, this would allow clubs an opportunity to test out their virus procedures in an effort to assure that their protocols operated smoothly for the regular season.
A 21-day ramp-up period for conditioning and strength procedures was recommended earlier by the NFL and NFLPA joint medical committee. However, that period only had 17 days available. Now with the extra week, the suggested ramp-up period can be accomplished.
The cancellation of the preseason does not conclude that all issues with the virus have been finalized. Players will still come and go to practice facilities and their respective stadiums as always. This means that athletes, coaches, trainers, laundry employees, stadium workers, equipment people and front office personnel, will all go out into the world and return as normal. This enables each of these folks the ability to come into contact with someone who may have the virus yet has not been tested positive or even show any immediate symptoms.
Currently, there does not seem to be a clear plan for player safety and health procedures. In the COVID-19 league guidelines, protocols for coaches aren’t even mentioned.
The players all along have insisted on daily testing. With 53-man rosters among 32 clubs during a 17-week season times seven days a week, that equates to 201,824 testing kits. How feasible is that? And what is the wait period on these tests? These numbers do not take into account all of the other people involved in running a franchise plus practice squad members plus the stadium as mentioned earlier.
With the elimination of the preseason, who this mainly affects are the players who went undrafted, late round draftees, plus newly-acquired athletes. Everyone knows that practice is important, but the games are where you can show that you belong on the final roster.
The preseason for Cleveland this year would have been vitally important so that newly-hired head coach Kevin Stefanski’s system could be implemented amidst game scenarios. Not only will the Browns have to be game ready in Week 1 with a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, new tight end, possible three new starting offensive linemen, new linebackers, new safeties, new defensive alignment, new defensive coordinator, and a slew of new coaches to boot, but they have to be game ready against the mighty Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens last season were a league best 14-2-0 and topped almost every offensive category including scoring 531 points while sporting the league’s MVP.
There hasn’t been any acclimation period for this year’s Browns squad whatsoever. And they open against the Ravens without any real game time?
This much is certain: the NFL can’t stop the coronavirus and provide a risk-free environment. If players want to play – and get paid – they will simply have to take the endangerment and suit up.