Heading into Monday morning, when we last checked in on the efforts to start training camp in the NFL and get on with a 2020 season, the league had issued a memo advising all players to report by July 28. The players then responded with a storm of Sunday morning tweets, all adorned with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay, and demanding that the owners establish some strict protocols to make the players' return as safe as possible.
As he did during the previous week, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt led the way by outlining all of the open health and safety-related topics in his tweet:
Once again in the interest of keeping everyone (players & fans) as informed as possible, here is an updated list of what we as players know and don’t know as the first group gets set to report to training camp tomorrow.#WeWantToPlay pic.twitter.com/xQcjs33zgM— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) July 19, 2020
Sunday afternoon was then spent with social media abuzz over the players' collective salvo fired at the owners, and the situation between the two sides being perceived as a slowly rising boil. Fans and media wondered "Why have the owners waited this long to implement safety protocols? Why did they waste so much time?"
As it turns out, the answer to that question may not matter, and whether the players' tweets spurred action doesn't really matter either. The bottom line is that the two sides were able to cross off the most important action item on Watt's list, as they were able to nail down some pretty stringent testing protocols designed to minimize (as best possible) the exposure and spread of the coronavirus in and around NFL stadiums.
Courtesy of Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, here is the memo from the league:
A memo that just went out outlining COVID-19 testing pic.twitter.com/RnJHRXQOKA— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 20, 2020
For their part, the players' announcement of these COVID-19 testing procedures indicates they are satisfied with this facet of the health and safety protocols:
Our statement on Covid-19 testing procedures: pic.twitter.com/6mYF3aK0jm— NFLPA (@NFLPA) July 20, 2020
The owners had been offering COVID testing every OTHER day, and the players were dug in on the need for daily testing. To me, this always felt like a "no brainer" for the owners to give in on this demand. The nature of football, with all of its close contact and complete opposite of social distancing on the field (spitting, sweating, heavy breathing on one another in crowds), of all the sports, was going to require maximum vigilance in testing players prior to entering the stadium or seeing the field. This was a hugely positive move to ensuring we get a season.
In one other significant concession from owners, they have reportedly offered to cancel all of the preseason games:
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Per source, the league today offered the union zero preseason games. A big step.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 20, 2020
This one is much more surprising, to me, than the concession on daily testing for COVID. While the preseason games do regenerate some trickle of revenue (far less with no fans in the stands, granted), I thought the owners would demand at least a game or two from the players for both evaluation purposes and for the purpose of getting a trial run with game day COVID safety procedures prior to the regular season.
There are still more issues to be worked on, but the players look like they are getting two big wins in their negotiation, which makes me wonder what atomic bomb is lurking around the corner from the owners when ti comes to negotiating things like future salary caps or player stipends in the event the season gets cancelled.