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NFL players push back against league's return-to-play plan

On Saturday, the NFL sent out a memo informing clubs that training camps would open as scheduled on July 28, with rookies reporting a week prior. That is, three days from when the memo was sent.


The NFL Players Association has been generally uncomfortable with the league's return-to-play protocols, and Saturday's memo brought those concerns front and center. On Sunday, NFL players launched a coordinated effort to broadcast their discomfort with the NFL's handling of the virus, ingeniously using the hashtag #WeWantToPlay.

While there's a lot more than what I've gathered here, the #WeWantToPlay campaign is led by some of the league's biggest names.

"What you are seeing today is our guys standing up for each other and for the work their union leadership has done to keep everyone as safe as possible," NFLPA president JC Tretter tweeted. "The NFL needs to listen to our union and adopt the experts' recommendations."

"As of now, if there was an outbreak of covid, there's no system in place for us to get back being safe," NFLPA vice president Sam Acho told ESPN Radio on Sunday. "The only way games get canceled is if Roger Goodell says, 'I'm going to cancel games.' That's the only way right now. There's no doctors we can listen to, there's no system that says if this many players get covid, there's nothing like that in place.... The players cannot bear the full brunt of the health concerns and also the financial concerns."

Acho said the NFLPA does not plan to encourage any sort of walk-out yet -- with rookies reporting, teams will still be under the limit of no more than 20 players inside the facility at one time. But, with the full 90-man roster slated to begin training camp in nine days, Acho said the union is telling veterans not to show up if the NFL does not honor its request.

In addition to what Watt posted and Acho said, here are some of the issues at stake:

And here's how the NFL is reportedly responding, at least so far:

College football players do not have a union like their professional counterparts and they don't have the same stake in the financial pie, but at least some of them are bound to have the same general anxiety about returning to play football in the current national environment. While the major conferences have made it clear that any player who feels uncomfortable can sit out the season without jeopardizing his spot on the team, college leaders should prepare themselves now for when the #WeWantToPlay campaign finds its way to college football.