There are a lot of similarities between Major League Baseball and the NFL. Both organizations will be/are going to compete outside a bubble. The league and owners had some major differences of opinions heading into the season. Protocols were put in place to help keep staff and players as safe as possible.
With the similarities out of the way, now for the differences.
Unlike baseball, the NFL and NFLPA have been able to find middle ground on a multitude of topics from preseason games, acclimation periods, testing protocol and more leading up to the 2020 season. MLB was put in a holding pattern for the majority of the summer, but the NFL is ready to start on time after the league and union came to terms on a side letter for their current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and playing during a pandemic.
As Tom Pelissero of NFL Network states, the deal is done. Game on.
Review now complete. Deal is done. https://t.co/qNAYMhboWk— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 4, 2020
This is exciting for football fans, even the skeptics who don’t think a season is an actual possibility, but there is more to this letter than the two parties saying games will be played as scheduled.
No, there are a lot of details which need to be dissected and digested so fans know what to expect in the coming days/weeks.
Information on players who choose to opt-out, and the deadline for this decision to be made:
NFL players were just notified the deadline to opt out of the 2020 season is 4 p.m. Thursday — and the annual drug testing window opens Friday, per sources.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 4, 2020
Only two ways an NFL player can opt out of the 2020 season after the 4 p.m. ET Thursday deadline:— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 4, 2020
- New diagnosis he has a high-risk condition
- Player’s family member dies, is hospitalized or otherwise moves to a medical facility because of COVID-19 or related condition
When drug tests, and how it will change under the current CBA, will begin:
Normally, NFL players are drug tested the first two weeks of training camp. This year, the window is Aug. 7-17, so a bit of a grace period.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 4, 2020
Remember: Under the updated policy on substances of abuse, players can be fined, but no longer suspended, for positive drug tests.
NFL players can be disciplined for breaking league/club rules as what the league calls “High Risk COVID-19 conduct”. The fines can be heavy, and are meant to keep players in a bubble as much as possible during the season.
The NFL Management Council just sent clubs an updated discipline schedule, including fines and suspensions for “High Risk COVID-19 conduct,” such as going to clubs, bars and house parties without PPE.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 4, 2020
No longer labeled High Risk in the final deal: Church. pic.twitter.com/0lntiBNZYS
Other potential fines for violating NFL-NFLPA protocols, after written warning for first offense:— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 4, 2020
- Refusal to submit to virus testing: $50,000
- Refusal to wear mask, PPE or tracking device, or maintain social distancing during team travel: progressive discipline up to $14,650
One sticking point for the NFLPA was a stipend for players if they opt-out, or if games are lost due to the coronavius pandemic.
Another big item resolved late in NFL-NFLPA negotiations:— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 4, 2020
Any player defined as higher-risk --including undrafted free agents and players who didn't earn a credited season in 2019 -- qualify for the same $350,000 stipend if they choose to opt out of the 2020 season, per source.
With the massive amount of testing these players and coaches are undergoing daily, you have to wonder what would happen if a player is diagnosed right before a game? What options will the team have?
What happens if a player is diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined on the night before or morning of a game this season?— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 4, 2020
The NFL will permit clubs to elevate a practice squad player with notice to the league office up until 90 minutes before kickoff, per source.
The list of players who have, or will, opt-out of the 2020 season is long, and if a player opts out they are helping their team as it pertains to salary cap space.
NFL teams are about to gain tens of millions of dollars in cap space.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 4, 2020
The management council informed clubs that signing bonus proration -- not just unearned salary and bonuses -- will be removed from the 2020 cap immediately upon notification a player is opting out, per sources
Expanded practice squads were already going to be a part of the NFL in 2020, but they are taking things a step further this season to help fill out rosters if one or more players test positive.
Several roster changes we’ve discussed are now official for 2020:— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 4, 2020
- 16-man practice squad (up to 6 with no limit on accrued seasons)
- Protect up to 4 P-squad members each Tuesday
- Starting 4 p.m. ET Sept. 6, unlimited players can return from injured reserve, after 3 weeks
It hasn’t been pretty, but when you look at the negotiations of a league like MLB, it has been smooth sailing. The players had demands, and the owners caved on some big issues to make sure they have a product on television in 2020.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for all the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the upcoming 2020 regular season.