College and high school football might have trouble getting off the ground, the conventional wisdom goes, but at least the NFL will play its season.
Due to the money involved and — let’s be honest — the greed of NFL ownership, it’s believed the NFL will do whatever it takes to play its 2020 campaign as scheduled. Whether that means paying for rapid testing for every player, coach and employee every single day or building a bubble in the middle of Wyoming on a week’s notice, NFL owners will spare no expense in order to capture the $16 billion or so in expected league revenues — or at least most of them.
And all of that may very well end up being true. But it seems the NFL has benefitted from that assumption in order to shape public perception to its benefit.
At least, that’s what NFL Players Association president JC Tretter believes.
Tretter, a 29-year-old center for the Cleveland Browns, wrote an open letter to NFLPA membership sharing his concerns ahead of training camps opening later this month.
“Every decision this year that prioritizes normalcy over innovation, custom over science or even football over health, significantly reduces our chances of completing the full season,” Tretter wrote.
In his letter, Tretter details the NFLPA’s grievances with the league over a number of issues: the league’s unwillingness to spread out training camp in order to prevent soft-tissue injuries after the league’s long layoff; the league’s unwillingness to cancel the entire preseason (Weeks 1 and 4 have already been canceled); and the league’s alleged refusal to follow recommendations of doctors and other health professionals.
“As a preventative measure during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFLPA and NFL formed a Joint Committee of doctors, trainers and strength coaches to develop protocols designed to bring players up to full speed in a healthy way when they return,” Tretter wrote. “The NFL initially accepted and implemented the Joint Committee’s suggestions, including items like no joint practices and no fans at training camp. However, the NFL was unwilling to follow the Joint Committee’s recommendation of a 48-day training camp schedule. Despite these experts’ assessment that teams face a serious risk of player-injury spikes this year (based on past NFL data and recent findings from sports leagues that have already returned to play this year), the NFL is unwilling to prioritize player safety and believes that the virus will bend to football.”
The Tretter letter does not mean the NFL season won’t happen, far from it.
But it’s apparent that NFL players have watched the return-to-play struggles in MLB, MLS and the NBA and are now voicing their concerns in hopes of avoiding the same fate.
In These Strange Times we’re living in, it seems that there’s no sure thing in American team sports — not even the surest thing we have.