NFL owners and players reached an agreement on health and safety issues related to the pandemic, in addition to clearing financial hurdles that should allow training camps to open next week.
The negotiations moved quickly on Friday. In the early afternoon, owners voted unanimously to approve the deal, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. The union’s executive committee then approved the measure several hours later, followed by a vote from the 32 player representatives later in the evening.
One of the key parts of the agreement is the ability for players to opt-out, particularly for those with conditions that are considered medically high risk. While what the NFL and players consider high-risk isn’t known, the Centers for Disease Control lists a series of conditions it considers high-risk, such as diabetes and obesity. Players have until Aug. 3 to opt-out.
Another key component of the agreement is camp practice structure. The agreement allows the players to slowly acclimate to the rigors of camp. In normal, non-pandemic times, the players participate in a series of mini-camps throughout the spring. By the time camp arrives, they have had weeks of conditioning and practice prep.
Because of the pandemic, the training has been more sporadic. So the two sides agreed to eight days of strength and conditioning at the beginning of camp—in other words, a slower pace at the start—and a maximum of 14 days in full pads. The padded practices aren’t scheduled to begin until Aug. 17.
The two sides agreed earlier this week on many of the health and safety aspects, including testing protocols, as well as how a team or league-wide outbreak would be handled.
Over the past few days, both sides negotiated over other significant factors. Most focused on a handful of central issues: how to split the inevitable revenue losses from this season; paying players if games are canceled (particularly those players with guaranteed salaries); and roster sizes.
Also included was the salary cap. Massive financial losses this year would lead to a far smaller cap next year. Both sides wanted to spread potential losses over two or three years and thus keep the cap at a relatively high number, which puts more money in the pockets of players.
While this agreement is a significant step to having a season, it far from guarantees there will be one. Or, if there is, it won’t start, stop and stutter like Christian McCaffrey dodging a linebacker. As many people have said, the virus dictates everything.
For now, however, the league has the green light to start camps. It’s one of the first pieces of good news the NFL has recently heard.