NFL training camps are still on schedule to start July 28 for most teams, with rookies set to report this week.
But much about how camps and the preseason will be conducted — including how COVID-19 testing will work and whether there will be exhibition games — remains unsettled.
And on Sunday morning, many of the NFL’s top players — including Seahawks Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Bruce Irvin, Tyler Lockett, Duane Brown and DK Metcalf — took to Twitter to state their concerns about camps starting with so much remaining uncertain.
Many, including Wilson’s, came with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay, making it clear it was part of a coordinated effort, with the league and the Players Association set for more negotiations Sunday on terms of training camp operation, how many preseason games there will be, and other changes that will be necessary due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Tweeted Wilson: “I am concerned. My wife is pregnant. @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” (Wilson’s wife, entertainer/singer Ciara, is pregnant with the couple’s second child, which they revealed in April is a boy).
Wagner quote tweeted Irvin with a look-at-this emoji.
And tweeted Metcalf: “It’s crazy to hear the NFL has yet to address major health and safety issues with training camp being 2 weeks away. We want to play football. Make it happen @NFL. Keep us safe! #WeWanttoPlay”
Fellow receiver Tyler Lockett also took to twitter a little later Sunday morning to voice a similar message while also revealing he had a family member test positive.
“I am really nervous about putting myself at risk without any safety measures being set in place,” Lockett wrote. “I’ve had a family member (27) contract the virus and they didn’t think they were going to make it. This is serious. If we are going to play in a pandemic the @NFL must keep us safe.”
Left tackle Duane Brown also tweeted “Crazy to hear the @NFL is not following the recommendations of their own experts regarding player health and safety. How does this even make sense?? I want to play football but we need the @NFL to create a safe work environment for us #WeWantToPlay”
The NFL sent a memo to teams Saturday informing them that camps will start on schedule. For all but the Chiefs and Texans, who start their season earlier, that means rookies reporting Tuesday, quarterbacks and injured players Thursday and everybody else July 28.
But players still have many questions they would like cleared up before camps begin (leadership of the league’s Players Association held a virtual news conference Friday as part of their coordinated media blitz to make their case).
The NFL and Players Association execs were set to continue negotiations Sunday. As Dan Graziano of ESPN noted, rookies for the Texans and Chiefs are scheduled to report Monday, and if they do and the “NFLPA hasn’t signed off on protocols (the) union could file a grievance claiming unsafe work environment.”
A tweet from J.J. Watt of Houston included a list of some of what the players want settled. Those include: that players still do not know if there will be daily testing, if there will be a “full and proper” acclimation period as camp begins to ward off injuries since players have done no on-field work since last season, whether there will be exhibition games, whether there will be a “strong and fair” opt-out clause, and if those who do not show up on time over health concerns can be considered in breach of contract.
Others who tweeted included New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett and Atlanta running back Todd Gurley (by one estimate there were roughly 80 tweets in an hour).
The #WeWantToPlay hashtag seemed designed at making it clear players want to get back on the field but also want to assure safety and health for everyone involved, first.
There also remain some significant financial questions, with the NFL having proposed cutting player pay if the season is canceled or reduced.
Among other differences, players prefer for there not to be any exhibition games while the NFL wants two — with one report last week stating that a compromise could lead to there being at least one.
Players also want daily testing and an acclimation period that would include 21 days of strength and conditioning, 10 days of non-padded practice and then 14 days of padded practices (the NFL had asked that players report earlier to account for an acclimation period but the players said no).
As the morning continued, reports grew that the acclimation period — which was a recommendation of a joint NFL-NFLPA task force — is a particular sticking point, with players making it clear they don’t want to play preseason games.
The NFL, though, can state that camps will open with their rules in place, forcing players to have to file a grievance.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this month in an interview on ESPN 710 Seattle that he would be OK with delaying the start of training camp to make sure everything is being done to make everyone feel comfortable.
Carroll noted then that the NFL was “hoping to learn a lot” from how the NBA, Major League Baseball and other leagues would have gotten re-restarted. Instead, both of those leagues are still waiting to begin or renew their seasons as outbreaks continue to surge in certain areas.