NFL Players Association president JC Tretter escalated a disagreement Tuesday with the NFL over the terms of training camp and the preseason amid the coronavirus pandemic, writing in a blog post that the league "is unwilling to prioritize player safety and believes that the virus will bend to football."
The NFL solidified plans last week to cut the 2020 preseason in half, from four games to two games, and create a 23-day acclimatization period in training camp to account for the likelihood that players will report to training camp less prepared for football after an entirely virtual offseason program. The NFLPA objected privately to that plan, which the NFL has not announced publicly, and its board of player representatives voted last week to endorse a plan with no preseason games.
Tretter's blog post pushed the issue into public view with new details. He wrote that the NFL and NFLPA's joint coronavirus task force agreed to a 48-day training camp without preseason games, partially in response to the surge of Achilles tendon and hamstring injuries that occurred the season after the league's 2011 lockout similarly wiped out the offseason program.
According to Tretter, the NFL has not provided a medical reason for insisting on two preseason games. A source said last week that the NFL felt it needed to have some preseason games to evaluate rosters as well as to give teams practice under new pandemic-related travel protocols.
"Every decision this year that prioritizes normalcy over innovation, custom over science or even football over health, significantly reduces our chances of completing the full season," Tretter wrote.
The NFL declined comment. It had previously proposed a mid-July start to training camp to accommodate the NFLPA's request for a longer acclimatization period, but the union rejected that offer. Training camps around the league will open July 28 for most players. The league last week gave teams a partial list of testing protocols and travel requirements for training camp and presumptive preseason games, but it has not completed its plan for regular season implementation.
"We don't want to merely return to work and have the season shut down before we even get started," Tretter wrote. "The NFLPA will do its part to advocate for player safety. We will continue to hold the NFL accountable and demand that the league use data, science and the recommendations of its own medical experts to make decisions. It has been clear for months that we need to find a way to fit football inside the world of coronavirus. Making decisions outside that lens is both dangerous and irresponsible."