Prior to last night it seemed as if a smooth start to the NFL season was anything but guaranteed. With key components of the league’s healthy and safety plan still having yet to be agreed upon by the NFL Player’s Association, a resolution appeared to be a long ways away.
That was before the NFL did an about face and seemingly kowtowed to two of the player’s most-pressing concerns - testing and the preseason - the night before rookies are set to report to camps around the league.
Before the agreement was reached owners wanted less-rigid testing policies, while players wanted more stringent protocols with testing taking place every day.
The agreement reached by the NFL and NFLPA calls for testing every day through the first two weeks of training camp, and at that point if the league’s positivity rate falls below 5% testing frequency can be reduced to every other day. However, if the rate is to rise above 5% at any time, daily testing will be reintroduced.
Before entering the team facility, players and staff must test negative twice separated by 72 hours.
To go along with their call for more-stringent testing policies, the players were also in favor of completely eliminating the preseason, a desire that reportedly has been acquiesced to by the league, which originally looked to cut the preseason in half.
Players will now be provided extended time to ‘ramp up’ their efforts, which had been a major sticking point for the NFLPA throughout the negotiations with the league. With the elimination of the preseason, the player’s acclimation period, which they will use to get conditioned and in the right shape to play football, has been increased to 18 days. That’s a far cry from the seven days that they were originally said to have been given by the NFL. It’s another big win for the players who have continuously voiced their concerns of what they believed was inadequate time to reestablish their footing within a professional environment.
With items such as testing and the preseason now agreed upon, what’s now left for the NFL and NFLPA is to agree to opt-out scenarios for those players who are concerned about participating in training camp and/or regular season games. Implications of an opt-out will bring financial questions as to whether or not those players should receive a stipend.
In addition, the loss of revenue that will come as a result of no fans in the stands during games will have to be negotiated, as neither side will be reticent to absorb that loss.
Although there are still obstacles that stand in the way of beginning the season on time, last night’s news was a major step toward bringing NFL football to your TV screen on September 10, when the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs are set to open the season against the Houston Texans.