This week, the training camp for the 2020-21 season commenced for some players across the league. After an off-season of virtual workouts due to the coronavirus pandemic and NFL player safety, all 32 teams are expected to report by July 28.
In the last few months, the NFL and NFL Players Association have established social distance travel and locker room protocols. They also implemented quarantining practices for those who test positive. However, major key issues remain unanswered as the season grows closer.
With the absence of mandates on equipment use, the NFL’s preseason has also been a hot topic. A proposal for two games has gone into effect, but players want to forego them altogether due to the NFL player safety issues.
Some of the league’s leading players are now taking to social medial to voice their safety concerns.
A Football Movement
#WeWantToPlay began trending on Twitter Monday and has since gained national awareness.
Eagles quarterback, Carson Wentz, who is also a new father, tweeted, “We all want to play this season, but we need to stay safe in order to actually have a season! It’s time for the NFL to step up and do their part so that us players can be safe at work and go play the game we love! #WeWantToPlay”
We all want to play this season, but we need to stay safe in order to actually have a season! It’s time for the @NFL to step up and do their part so that us players can be safe at work and go play the game we love! #WeWantToPlay
— Carson Wentz (@cj_wentz) July 19, 2020
Wentz will report to camp on July 22 at the NovaCare complex, which includes several fields.
Joining his teammate, Eagles tight-end, Zach Ertz wrote, “Playing football and feeling safe at work SHOULD NOT be mutually exclusive! Time is running down and we need answers #WeWantToPlay.”
Malcolm Jenkins, J.J. Watt, Russell Wilson, and Drew Brees, among many others, also contributed to the social media campaign’s need for a player and family safety plan.
Patrick Mahomes, Super Bowl 2020 MVP tweeted, “Getting ready to report this week hoping the @NFL will come to an agreement with the safe and right protocols so we can feel protected playing the sport we love #WeWantToPlay.”
The Pandemic Plan
Hours after #WeWantToPlay began gaining popularity, the NFL and NFLPA came to an agreement.
Players, coaches, and all designated staff will undergo daily COVID testing throughout the first two weeks of training camp. Following those two weeks, testing regularity will depend on the number of positive cases diagnosed.
If confirmed cases exceed 5%, daily testing will resume. Alternatively, if the rate is below 5%, testing will occur every other day. Players must also test negative more than once before participating in any team activities.
Because COVID testing is not always accurate, the league’s medical experts enforced additional safety measures.
Across the NFL, daily temperature screenings, symptom monitoring, and social distancing practices, including masks and use of protective equipment, will be implemented. Tracking devices will also be used to identify any player, coach, or staff member who may have come into contact with a confirmed positive person.
League Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Allen Sills, stated, “We are trying to minimize transmission of virus and mitigate risk of any player contracting the virus.”
As of last Friday, 72 players in the NFL had tested positive for COVID-19.
The delay in COVID precautions has caused many to accuse the NFL of prioritizing assets over safety.
Owners have proposed lowering the salary cap for players to make up for losses, and keeping a percentage of salaries in escrow. However, in a situation that comes down to a possible life or death, dollar signs need to fall down the list of priorities.
The reality is this — if a slew of safety measures are not put into place, players will get sick. This will inevitably delay a fan presence at games, and revenue will continue to plummet.
Safety protocols = everyone wins, and until players are satisfied, #WeWantToPlay will thrive.