Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, J.J. Watt and many other prominent NFL standouts collectively voiced their concerns about the pending start of training camps in a matter of days without proper coronavirus protocols in place.
The players started the #WeWantToPlay campaign on Twitter, voicing their concerns Sunday, which include adequate testing and contact tracing procedures, if there will be any preseason games, lack of an opt-out clause for players and whether they will incur fines for not showing up without proper protocols in place.
“The NFL continues to ignore major health and safety concerns putting the 2020 season in jeopardy. America wants to watch football and we want to play. Make the necessary changes @nflcommish #WeWantToPlay,” wrote Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones while addressing commissioner Roger Goodell.
“Just make it make sense, @NFL,” wrote Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. “This isn’t a ‘wait it out and see’ situation; we are talking about lives! The health and safety of our players should be of the utmost importance & right now your current stance on this is a ill reflection of that. #WeWantToPlay”
The NFL sent a memo to teams Saturday with expected dates for players to report.
Dolphins rookies, quarterbacks and other injured players are expected to report the team’s Davie facility Thursday, while remaining players are expected to report on July 28 — the same date set for 29 other teams.
The Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs, who are scheduled to open the season on Sept. 10, are the only two teams expected to report early this week.
Despite the hard deadlines to report, the league and its players’ association continue to wrestle on guidelines that meet several areas for concern for training camp and the upcoming season.
Watt, the Texans standout defensive end, posted a list of several concerns the players still have just a day before his teammates are supposed to report for work.
Among them: The players want to play and want to be as safe as possible. But the players do not want to report without clear guidelines, agreed to by the league and the players’ union, in place before their arrivals.
The players do not know how frequently they will be tested (their preference is daily). They are also unsure of for players who encounter a teammate that has tested positive, how positive tests affect roster sizes and limits, and if an opt-out clause for players deemed with high risk can be agreed upon.
The players also do not want to be subject to fines for not reporting to work without approved IDER (Infectious Disease Emergency Response) guidelines in place.
“I am concerned. My wife is pregnant,” wrote star Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. “@NFL Training camp is about to start. And there’s still No Clear Plan on Player Health & Family Safety. We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones. #WeWantToPlay”
Added Saints quarterback Drew Brees: “We need Football! We need sports! We need hope! The NFL’s unwillingness to follow the recommendations of their own medical experts will prevent that. If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. Get it done @NFL.”
Along with COVID-19 concerns, the players are also worried if they will take the field for any preseason games next month.
The players prefer to play no preseason games to allow for a better ramp up period before the season, but the league wants at least two preseason games to be played. The two sides already agreed earlier this offseason the number of preseason games would be reduced from four.
NFLPA president JC Tretter, a center for the Cleveland Browns, said of the players’ blitz of social media posts:
“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. The NFL needs to listen to our union and adopt the experts’ recommendations #wewanttoplay.”
Added outspoken 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman: “The NFL has ignored the safety recommendations from the experts that THEY hired. We all love this game and want to go out and compete with our brothers. The NFL needs to provide a safe work environment for us to do that. #WeWantToPlay”
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