It’s expected the NFL players will have the ability to choose not to play in 2020, with the only cost being the sacrifice of their salary. No fines, no bonus forfeiture. Just no weekly pay.
Some, like NBC’s Chris Simms, believe most players will choose to play. Other, like NBC’s Rodney Harrison, believe plenty of players will not feel comfortable playing football in a pandemic.
On Thursday, a glimpse of what could happen was obtained via a conference call between NFL Players Association team representatives and NFLPA medical director Thom Mayer. Via Dan Graziano of ESPN.com, Mayer explained to players the dangers of the virus, and the players were told that the “chances of conducting a season around the virus will depend on the success of their testing and contact-tracing program.”
The frank and candid discussion regarding the gravity of the situation prompted “plenty of pushback,” per the report, with representatives “asking why they are trying to rush back to play if the virus is such a dangerous threat.” Questions also emerged regarding player contracts if they opt out due to virus concerns, and whether they’ll be able to leave if they become too uncomfortable to play as the season unfolds.
A call with all players (or at least with as many who call in) will happen today, which could result in more talk about players choosing to skip the year. The league, per a source with knowledge of the situation, will want decisions to be made before training camp, without an escape hatch once a player signs on. This “speak now or forever hold your peace” approach, if it is adopted, could result in more players walking away.
Regardless, to the extent that players wonder why the season is being played in a pandemic most likely won’t have to play in a pandemic, even though the current labor deal was ratified by the players after the pandemic began. As Rodney mentioned earlier this week, players have enough to worry about as they focus on their craft and prepare for their opponents. Having extra concerns relating to the virus will make it much harder for them to do their jobs — and some of them may simply choose, for this year, not to.