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Why the player’s union wants to skip the entire preseason

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Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

With the Fourth of July holiday in the rear view mirror, during normal times the next notable event on the calendar of most football fans would be the Hall of Fame game that kicks off the NFL preseason. However, with the league having cancelled that game weeks ago due to the ongoing pandemic, and with the remainder of the NFL preseason likely to be cut in half, in addition to the reduction in training camp roster sizes, the NFLPA has recommended an even more drastic reduction in the preseason. Specifically, the board of representatives for the union voted Thursday to recommend foregoing the preseason in its entirety, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.

That might seem like a drastic step for the union, as the union would seem to want to give the best opportunity for success to the players at the edge of the roster. However, worrying about the players on the fringes ignores one simple fact: Players don’t earn game checks for playing during the preseason.

To use the most extreme example from the roster of the Seattle Seahawks, and one of the most extreme examples in the league, quarterback Russell Wilson has a base salary during the 2020 season of $18,000,000. Players earn their base salary on a weekly basis, earning 1/17th of it for each regular season game in which they are in full pay status, as well as for the bye week. For Wilson that means that during the regular season he earns $1,058,823 per week.

In contrast, during the preseason, all players are paid a flat per diem weekly. Rookies receive $1,150 weekly, while veterans get $2,000 per week. Even for rookies on a minimum salary contract, the difference between a $1,150 weekly check and a $35,882 game check are huge.

And that is why the union is looking to skip the preseason in its entirety. While the preseason is certainly a chance for someone like a Kasen Williams or Jazz Ferguson to put some impressive plays on tape, the union’s job is to look out for the core of its members. Specifically, those players who stand to earn game checks during the 2020 regular season. With the logistics of travel combined with the potential for widespread exposure over the course of any three hour game creating the opportunity for an outbreak to short circuit the season, the union obviously would prefer that players earn as many full game checks as possible prior to things being shut down. That means foregoing the risky events where players get paid a small fraction of what they do during the regular season.

What that means is that with the potential for an outbreak to derail the season across the league at any time, the union simply wants to eliminate the up front games for which the players are not highly paid. It’s that simple. It may seem like the union is neglecting the younger players at the edges of the roster with this approach, and that’s exactly the case, because the union is looking to protect the core of its membership. In short, it’s all about the dollars, and in this case, the best way for the union to put as many dollars in the hands of its members as possible during the 2020 season is to simply skip the preseason.

Now it simply becomes a matter of waiting to see if the league signs off or not.