When they can get on the field remains to be seen.
“This is a contact disease, and we play a contact sport,” Browns center and NFLPA president JC Tretter said Tuesday during a Zoom video conference with reporters.
“There is a long list of ideas we need to come up with on how to make this environment safe for us. And that’s why it’s going to be a lot of thinking involved in that. That’s why we have conversations and calls and we’re looking at that every day.”
The Browns did not reopen their building in Berea because the team is still finalizing plans to do so in accordance with local and league guidelines as stay at home orders in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic are rescinded across the country.
Tretter and the NFLPA have been hosting biweekly calls with players and their wives updating them on the latest news as well as to discuss the new norm, how to protect themselves when they go to the store or go out and to answer any questions.
The calls also include doctors to address medical concerns.
For Tretter and fellow players, unfortunately, there are more questions than answers right now.
“We have guys with pre-existing [medical] conditions,” Tretter said. “Obviously, testing is going to have to be really important to this. There just needs to be a plan, and there are a lot of questions that have to be answered. Anytime you kind of come up with an answer, five or six questions pop up from that answer. It is an ever-evolving conversation, and there is really not just a short list of ‘We need these five things.’”
Although having facilities reopening is a step forward, it’s crystal clear that we could still be a long way from football, a point Tretter did not shy away from Tuesday.
“There’s a long list of hurdles we have to get over,” Tretter said.
On Monday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the league was working on prototype face coverings for players to wear but Tretter has yet to see a prototype.
“There’s no bad idea at this point, and you kind of have to think outside the box,” Tretter said. “And just because it’s an idea doesn’t mean things are definitely going to happen, but you need to explore it, and you need to understand it.
“You have to focus on fitting football inside of this world of coronavirus and don’t get caught up in trying to fit coronavirus inside this world. The way coronavirus has kind of changed how every industry is working, you can’t expect just to throw football back in and think that the virus is going to kneel down to almighty football.”
As the NHL, Major League Baseball and Soccer and NBA grapple with returning to the field, court and pitch in the coming weeks, the NFL has been able to wait out the pandemic.
Aside from losing on field work during the offseason that includes OTAs and minicamps, the league has been able to conduct free agency and the draft with minimal interruption.
“We have the, I guess what you would call an advantage of we still have time before our season is projected to start,” Tretter said. “A lot of the other leagues are trying to figure this out right now and trying to piece it together and we still have time.”
Tretter understands there’s risk involved in playing. His job as NFLPA president is to ensure that risk is as minimal as possible for players.
“There’s a level to risk of everything,” Tretter said. “You’re facing a level of risk right now going to the grocery store. There’s always going to be a level of exposure that people are going to face in this. So I don’t think we’ll ever get to a point where there’s no risk of exposure.
“Coming in contact with other people is a risk of exposure. So that’s never going to be down to zero. Our job is to try to get that to as close to zero as possible.”