There had been some thought that the NFL would be in better shape than other leagues because it had more time to wait out the coronavirus pandemic before playing games.
However, with the virus not only still present, but once again spiking in the United States, the reality that the NFL season will in fact be impacted is beginning to set in.
Half of all preseason games have already been canceled and teams are bracing for the likelihood of having no fans or a reduced number of fans at games, with the Ravens and Chiefs already announcing plans for reduced capacity.
As we’ve seen in other sports, most notably baseball, with this new reality comes an economic showdown between owners and players about how to handle the loss of revenue.
And as we saw with baseball, that showdown is already spilling into public view. On Tuesday, NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero reported that the NFL Players Association informed its board of representatives that the league was proposing that 35% of player salaries be held in escrow to help manage costs during the 2020 season.
According to Pelissero, the response from Don Davis, the NFLPA's Senior Director of Player Affairs, to the league was, “Basically, we told them to kick rocks.”
Davis, who won two Super Bowls with the Patriots in 2003 and 2004, joined Ordway, Merloni and Fauria on Wednesday (listen to the full interview here) to expand on the negotiations with the league and that first offer that he views as “a bit outrageous.”
“When they’re asked to take a pay cut, typically that is the reaction,” Davis told OMF. “Nobody should really be surprised about that. Any time you’re in a contract dispute or you’re asked to take less money, I think that’s your first reaction, all of us.
“When you go at a 10,000-square-foot level,” Davis said, “and you just look at what reason would say, then what you’re saying is, ‘Four preseason games are not in the best health and safety of players based on COVID, but guess what? Good news, two are totally fine.’ That’s a tough position to take, right? The position of the PA isn’t, ‘Have no preseason games.’ That’s not the narrative at all. I know that’s out there. The position is, ‘Can you tell us how playing four is problematic, but playing two is OK?’”
Davis said players are also concerned about the ramp-up schedule, as he says the NFL has decided to discard a schedule that a joint committee had come up with that laid out the time period it would take to safely get ready for the season with all the new precautions and protocols in place.
“We have a joint committee, several joint committees, that have provided recommendations as to what constitutes risk mitigation and what’s the best and safest way for players to play,” Davis said. “One of those committees is our return to work committee. That committee, jointly hired folks from both sides, came up with a schedule that we called an acclimation period schedule.
“What their goal was if everybody, in light of COVID, and we have to assume the lowest common denominator of a guy who’s locked down in a state and hasn’t been able to do anything beyond push-ups and sit-ups and running outside, what would it take to safely protect that player and get him ready for one game? They came up with a six-week, almost six-and-a-half-week ramp-up period that has three basic kind of areas.
“There’s testing, there’s strength and conditioning that happens for a time with all these measures and all these protocols, then you go into an OTA kind of period, and then you get to contact integration where you finally get to football. That six weeks, that joint committee put that in place as a recommendation. The NFL has decided that wasn’t good enough because you can’t do that and fit it in without canceling the preseason.
“So because preseason is so important, we’re going to cancel that recommendation from a committee that you just signed. They gave their recommendation, but we’re going to alter it and now we’re going to do those same periods but in two days here and three days there. That’s one way you could really say, ‘You know what, we believe that in the best interest of the players, based on the recommendation of this committee that is full of experts, we’re going to abide by that schedule.’ That would be a big step.”