The 2020 NFL season is right around the corner with players scheduled to report for training camp in a matter of weeks. However, all of that could be in jeopardy with the NFL and NFL Players Association’s ongoing negotiations for the 2020 season.
Facing a potentially massive economic hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league and players’ union must agree on economic and safety plans for the upcoming season. Otherwise, we won’t see anyone take the field this year.
NFL, NFLPA divided over plan for 2020 season
Both the NFL and its players recognize the dangers of playing during the COVID-19 crisis and the financial pain the league will experience this year because of the pandemic. As a result, the two sides are negotiating a plan for the 2020 season.
While talks have gone on for weeks, discussions ramped up this week with the scheduled reporting date (July 28) for players to arrive at training camp closing in. The NFL proposed withholding a significant portion of player salaries in escrow this year with a two-game preseason, while the players’ union countered with a flat cap in 2021 and no preseason games this year.
Both sides came into the week hoping to reach an agreement, allowing some players to the 2020 rookie class to report for training camp this week. Instead, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, there will be no talks on Wednesday and it could now put the start of training camp in jeopardy.
NFL players seeking opt-out clauses, daily testing amid COVID-19 concerns
The NFL’s proposal to withhold a portion of player salaries was rejected almost instantly, with the union making it clear players would skip the season if that happened. While the NFLPA sent a counterproposal, the NFL’s response makes it clear no agreement is imminent.
NFL owners are scheduled to hold a conference call on Friday, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. Until then, they are standing by their offer of two preseason games this year and insist any player who tests positive for COVID-19 during the season would be eligible for the non-football injury list.
The NFLPA will discuss the league’s offer on Wednesday afternoon, but it’s expected to be rejected immediately. The NFI designation would allow teams to withhold payment from their players, using language in the CBA to avoid owed wages.
Of course, the union is making its own demands in negotiations and they do have the leverage. Under the CBA, per ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, there is no force majeure clause. As a result, the league lacks the standing authority to reduce player pay if it loses the season or a significant percentage of revenue.
In exchange for flexibility on the financial side, the NFLPA wants far more protection for players. Among the requests, reducing roster sizes for the preseason, opt-out clauses with conditional stipends, no preseason games, daily testing for the virus and any player who tests positive can’t be placed on the NFI.
It remains highly likely that an agreement is eventually reached between the two sides and we could see signs of progress over the weekend. Given everything at stake for everyone in the NFL, especially the owners, the sooner an agreement is reached the better.