Earlier this week, the NFL announced plans to cut two games off its anticipated preseason slate in response to the continuing coronavirus pandemic. Now the players association is petitioning the NFL to scrap its preseason altogether. Union reps voted on the issue during a Thursday conference call and submitted a formal recommendation the following night.
Abandoning the preseason would be unprecedented and obviously wouldn’t bode well for the league’s plans to resume play as scheduled this fall. ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports the players addressed a myriad of topics during their Thursday conference call, discussing safety measures aimed at combatting the virus. NFLPA medical director Thom Mayer, who urged players to stop conducting group workouts amid the continued prevalence of COVID-19 (advice that has seemingly fallen on deaf ears), was among those present for Thursday night’s call. With training camp on the horizon, the league is hoping to finalize its safety protocols, which could include protective masks and reduced roster sizes, in the relatively near future.
Players didn’t seem too broken up about the NFL’s decision to slash its preseason from four games to two, with Golden Tate and others expressing their disdain for the league’s laughable exhibition slate. Though owners and front-office types would argue the preseason has merit, allowing coaches a longer look at fringe roster types while giving veterans a chance to shed some of their rust, established players with little to gain see it for the farce that it is, a shameless money grab designed to boost ticket revenue and increase brand exposure. It’s also an inherently risky proposition—more than a few stars have been lost to injuries suffered in meaningless preseason games.
With COVID continuing to wreak havoc, the players have as good an excuse as they’ll ever have to backburner its tedious preseason schedule. Doing so would mean we’d have to wait a little longer for football, but the imminent returns of baseball, hockey and NBA hoops should still give fans plenty of sports fodder to occupy their time in the coming months.