NFL training camps remain scheduled to start on July 28.
But Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday he hopes the league will consider pushing that date back if needed to make sure that all players, coaches and support staff are kept safe in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Whatever we need to do to do this right is what I hope we do,” Carroll said during an interview on ESPN 710 Seattle Friday with host John Clayton. “If we’ve got to slow down a little bit to get started, that would be OK. There (are) a lot of unsettled issues right now between the league and the players.”
Indeed, with just over two-and-a-half weeks remaining to the scheduled start of camp, the league and the Players Association still have what Pro Football Talk termed in a headline Friday “major issues” still to be resolved.
Among those are whether there will be two preseason games (the league’s preference) or none (which is what the players want); exactly how testing protocols will work; and if salaries could be impacted (the league has suggested keeping 35 percent of the player salary pool in escrow, which is being viewed as making it easier for the league to cut salaries later, if the number of games is impacted).
Players have reacted strongly on social media and elsewhere to some of the recent ideas floated by the league, including former Seahawk Richard Sherman, who is now on the executive committee of the NFLPA and tweeted Friday that “we haven’t agreed to anything in their proposal.”
In a story detailing Sherman’s tweet, PFT floated the idea the league could “temporarily pause” the beginning of training camp to “allow for the appropriate consideration and conclusion” of the issues between the league and players.
The NFL Network reported Friday afternoon that the league and the NFLPA’s Executive Committee have a call scheduled for Monday to try to work through issues.
And what’s clear is that players seem increasingly concerned as camp nears and the outbreak shows no sign of slowing down.
Seahawk linebacker/end Bruce Irvin wondered on Twitter this week if the NFL is “going to give the players an option to play or not?”
The NFL Network’s report Friday said “opt-outs” are among the things the league and the NFLPA will discuss Monday.
Carroll Friday said he hopes all issues are resolved to make everyone feel comfortable by the time camps would begin.
Carroll noted he hasn’t been told anything by anybody that the start of camp could be delayed but said, “I can see us just waiting a little bit. But we’ll see what happens.”
“… The start of the (regular) season is such a long ways away for us at this point,” Carroll said of a Seattle team that is scheduled to play its first game Sept. 13 at Atlanta. “And we are all going through this together. It is all going to be relative, the competitive aspect is going to be equal as we go through it. But right now if we needed to take a step back and keep drawing information, it seems like we learn so much every couple days. There is so much information coming in. Whatever we need to do to do this right is what I hope we do.”
Carroll noted that the NFL had hoped that the NBA and Major League Baseball might be further along in their returns to play by this point to allow the NFL to replicate much of what they had done.
But both are still in the beginning stages of attempting to get back to playing games.
“We were hoping to learn a lot as they went through the process,” Carroll said.
With each league planning to play games beginning later this month that could give the NFL that much more insight on how to safely return as well, Carroll said.
NFL teams conducted their offseason programs through virtual meetings and conditioning sessions, and players have also been holding some informal small-group workouts.
Carroll mentioned quarterback Russell Wilson’s workouts in the San Diego area and said what he has seen, combined with how Wilson worked in the offseason program, has him thinking that Wilson is “the best he’s ever been.”
That’s an almost annual refrain from Carroll about Wilson this time of year, but it also seemed to indicate he’s confident that Wilson, at least, would be able to get up to speed quickly once camp begins, with Carroll thinking for now that what is more important than the length of training camp is assuring that it is a safe one.
“The whole idea is, can we protect our people?” Carroll said. “How can we protect our players and their families, our coaches and their families and all of the people who support us as we go through the process of unveiling a football season. There’s so much that goes into it. The thing that I am feeling right now is we would like all the information we can get. We want to be as smart as we can as we make these choices and decisions as we move forward.”