When the new NFL CBA was approved back in March, putting it into effect until 2030, the planning didn't quite center around a worldwide pandemic. But, because that was exactly what transpired, and is still raging, five months later, some temporary changes needed to be made.
Those changes, according to NFL reporter Tom Pelissero, have all been agreed upon between the NFL and the NFL Players Association and officially reviewed by the union.
The highlights are as follows:
- The deadline to opt out of the 2020 NFL season is 4:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, August 6. A player can opt out past this date in two situations: a) he is newly diagnosed with a high-risk condition or, b) a player's family member dies or is hospitalized due to COVID-19 or a related condition.
- The entire salary of a player who opts out, including the unearned cash, bonuses and prorated signing bonus, will be taken off the teams' 2020 salary caps.
- A player determined to be higher-risk will qualify for a $350,000 stipend if they decide to opt out.
- The league has given teams more leeway in the event that a player tests positive for COVID-19 in the middle of the season.
- Drug testing will begin on August 7, the day after the opt-out deadline, and the window goes until August 17.
- Activities determined as "high risk" have been updated and often come with the caveat of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing availability. Pelissero notes that certain employees (coaches, medical staff, and other Tier 1 and Tier 2 staff) are "subject to comparable discipline."
- Fines will be incurred on players who refuse to submit to testing for COVID-19 ($50,000) and for those who refuse to wear personal protective equipment or maintain social distancing (up to $14,650).
- Expected changes to the practice squad were approved, bumping the 12-man unit -- which is set to become 14 in 2022 -- up to 16 players, six of which can be players with any amount of experience.
Patriots safety Devin McCourty was one player who voiced his concerns and frustrations with the league's decision to change the opt out deadline, calling it an "absolute joke... mainly because they don't want to continue to see guys opt out."
Keep up with our opt out tracker here, which should continue to grow in large quantities until Thursday's deadline.