While the calendar says that training camp for NFL veterans is less than three weeks away, and even sooner for rookies, several players across the league have taken to social media recently to voice their concerns over the way the league is addressing safety matters. Or, perhaps more accurately, voicing their concerns over the fact that it appears to them that the league is not adequately addressing safety matters.
Cleveland Browns Center, and President of the NFLPA, JC Tretter continued his online battle against the league with another post on the NFLPA website discussing player safety. Tretter’s writing did not only focus on COVID, it also provided some basic data for an expectation of increased player injuries following the altered offseason program in which players have participated this year.
The NFLs unwillingness to follow the recommendations of its own experts will put this season and the safety of all players at risk. This year must look differently if we hope to play a full season and crown a Super Bowl Champion. Read: https://t.co/lp7vFYFFjN— JC Tretter (@JCTretter) July 7, 2020
That was followed up later in the day with a post from safety Tre Boston of the Carolina Panthers.
Well yet another NFLPA call & still 1000 unanswered questions! Rookies report in 11 days Vets 21! Please tell me how we’re getting info on time to get acclimated??? States are closing but we have to move our families to these states & play. Make it make sense! How can we start? pic.twitter.com/6PqgyG3bId— Tre Boston (@TreBos10) July 8, 2020
Not letting Boston be the only safety posting about player safety, the Seattle Seahawks own safety, Quandre Diggs, proffered his thoughts in reaction to Boston’s tweet.
Man exactly next meeting I want them to say we’re now saying 28th ain’t an option! Since its just “their date” lets state that then.— Tre Boston (@TreBos10) July 8, 2020
Players weren’t the only ones who were loudly calling for something to be done, as DEC Management, the agency which represents players including Demarcus Lawrence of the Dallas Cowboys and Cody Barton of the Seahawks, chimed in as well.
NFL; “hey guys go risk your life and your families lives while we fly in our private jets and sit in our private sky boxes and watch you possibly die for our profits and entertainment. Also let us hold 35% of your money and keep the interest and profits!” Sure Jan https://t.co/j8SH6iORjn— DEC Management (@davidcanter) July 7, 2020
Add in speculation from players, specifically 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III, that the entire preseason could be scrapped, and it would appear that the season could be in real jeopardy at this point.
Sources say there will be no preseason this year— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) July 7, 2020
What exactly will happen going forward is anyone’s guess. The NFL appears to be playing a wait and see approach to learn from the experiences of the NBA, MLB, MLS and the NHL that are all attempting to start or restart their seasons in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, the MLS has already been forced to reschedule three games in its restart due to players testing positive for COVID.
The NBA and MLB have yet to reach the dates where games are set to be played, so there’s no telling whether there will be actual playing or not. Add in that several players from both leagues have opted out of playing this season, and any games that do take place could be little more than shadows of themselves.
The Rockies’ Ian Desmond has opted out of the 2020 season, but that feels secondary to a heartfelt, incisive Instagram post about his place in the world and baseball’s as well. The whole post is here: https://t.co/rLnOu3CP2k.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 30, 2020
But the part I’ve attached is important and spot-on. pic.twitter.com/ndyE6juKbp
Meanwhile, while MLS and the NBA attempt to restart in a bubble in the exploding COVID hotspot of Florida, a state where 56 hospital ICUs have reached full capacity in recent days as the number of COVID hospitalized has exploded.
UPDATE: In Florida, 56 hospital ICU’s in 25 counties have hit capacity and show zero ICU beds available, including 8 in Miami-Dade, 3 in Broward, 3 in Hillsborough and 4 in Orange counties, according to data released by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). #COVID19— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) July 8, 2020
Of note for the returns of MLS and the NBA are the four hospitals in Orange County with zero available ICU beds, as Orange County is where the bubble for each of those two leagues exist. This is what the new case trend in Orange County looks like over the last 30 days, including 3,826 new confirmed cases in the first six days of July. (Author’s note: The top of the graphic says “New cases in Florida residents by day”, however, this is due to limitations of the Florida official data portal which displays that heading in spite of the fact that the data displayed in the histogram is only for Orange County. Also, of note, is the fact that, as it says, the data is only reflective of Florida residents. Any non-Florida residents, including all the MLS players and NBA players and staff who are not Florida residents are not included in the data in the Florida portal.)
In any case, of particular note for the NFL is the three hospitals in Hillsborough county that have reached capacity, as Hillsborough is where Raymond James Stadium, scheduled host for Super Bowl LV next February, is located.
In any case, one possibility that has yet to be discussed could be to look at what the NHL has decided to do and move to an international destination. The NHL is expected to restart with all games being played north of the border in Canada.
Reports say the NHL has decided on Toronto and Edmonton for its hub cities— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) July 1, 2020
It would likely be a logistical nightmare, but it wouldn’t be impossible, and if the NFL is dead set on making a season happen, there are worse ideas than moving the games to Canada. Through the first full week of July the entire country of Canada has logged a total of only 1,963 confirmed cases, which is fewer than five individual states in the U.S. reported Tuesday alone (Texas 9,414, California 8,631, Florida 7,347, Arizona 3,653 and Georgia 3,406, total 32,451).
The NFL has played games in Canada as recently as the 2013 season, while it has more recently undertaken international games across the pond in Europe, a location which has been thrown out as a possibility as well.
How to significantly increase the chance have a full NFL season in 2020 with no players missing time to a Covid infection: Fly all teams to Europe, go in quarantine for two weeks, play the season in Europe.— Moo (@PFF_Moo) July 8, 2020
Whether the idea of playing in Europe was tossed out in seriousness or in jest, if player safety truly is the goal of the league, then moving the season to Europe might not be all that horrible an idea. The pandemic is far better controlled through most of the European continent, and holding a season there, when there aren’t likely to be many fans in attendance if games are held in the U.S., could help the league establish the foothold in Europe it has been trying to build for decades.
What it all boils down to is that, as Tre Boston noted, there are questions upon questions that need to be addressed before the season starts, or even before training camp kicks off, whether that be later this month or some other time. The prime options for player safety exist, and now it’s up to the league and the union to come together and reach agreement on what will be best for all parties.