With frustration over loose ends lingering among a multitude of NFL teams and players on Friday, the league’s team owners continue to reiterate their commitment to keeping the season on track — right down to Monday’s rookie reporting date for the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.
Both teams were instructed to bring their rookies in on Monday, despite the league and NFL Players Association still standing apart on some fundamental issues. That has led to a significant amount of confusion for teams with veteran camps slated to open just over a week away. Multiple league sources, including head coaches, general managers, players and other NFL personnel, expressed a mixture of dismay about the continued push to get camp started on time with some key details still in the dark.
One general manager said Friday that he assumed the Aug. 1 “opt out” opportunity for players for the 2020 season led him to believe that training camp wouldn’t begin until after that date. Largely because what sense does it make to have players report on July 28 but leave a window open for an opt out four days later? Another general manager said bluntly that it made no sense to have rookies report to two NFL teams on Monday if there is still no agreement on how to spread out the financial impact of lost revenues in the coming years.
“That doesn’t seem like a great solution if they don’t have the economics ironed out yet,” the general manager said.
Two head coaches also told Yahoo Sports they have been handcuffed the past few days on what to instruct their players and staff, from setting schedules to giving coaches an idea of when to return from their summer breaks. That has led to a cycle of confusion and inertia, all taking place while COVID-19 spikes in some states leaving the head coaches concerned about asking players to fly.
All of this is a sampling of where the situation stands for teams opening in the coming days. It’s an outlook that falls somewhere in a gray range between messy and dangerous depending on who is providing the context. Inside that shaky landscape, the NFL continues to tell teams and the union that it is pressing forward.
An ownership meeting Friday delivered no clarity about whether a delay to the start of the season was hanging in the balance, despite that possibility being a topic open for discussion. Ultimately, that meeting ended without any significant news of advances, leaving the league to issue a statement that indicated little more than continued talks.
“NFL clubs met today via videoconference and received an update on preparations for the 2020 season,” the statement said. “We will continue to implement the health and safety protocols developed jointly with the NFLPA, and based on the advice of leading medical experts, including review by the CDC. We will address additional issues in a cooperative way. All decisions will be made in an effort to put us in position to play a full regular season and postseason culminating with the Super Bowl which is the shared goal of the clubs and the players.”
The largest amount of clarity of what is coming may have been provided by the union, which indicated Friday that the NFL has insisted that training camp must start on time. That much was made clear by NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith on Friday, when he said a call this week between the union and NFL team doctors resulted in a unified front from the league’s medical professionals that it is safe to open camps next week.
Smith also added context that could lead to an unraveling of camps next week. Specifically, the NFLPA wants daily testing, while the league has indicated a schedule of three tests per week (with 24-hour breaks in between to get results of tests as they occur). Smith said the union will not back off its push for daily testing, adding that the regimen and other safety protocols must be agreed upon before the two sides can work out an agreement on sharing the revenue loss that will occur this year.
That’s a significant point, given that multiple league sources have said the financial impasse on spreading out the revenue loss remains the biggest stumbling block to starting training camps on time.
As one league source put it, the sides “aren’t close enough yet on the economic issues, but [are] within spitting distance on many other topics.”
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