One of the most crucial portions of the NFL’s protocols for players to safely return to work amid the Covid-19 pandemic is the establishment of Infectious Disease Emergency Response plans, or IDER plans. This is one of the critical components of the debate on which the NFLPA is standing firm.
The good news is that this process good a major step forward recently, but it’s not across the finish line yet. As Tom Pelissero and others reported yesterday, all 32 teams have now submitted their IDER plans to the league, and they have all met with the approval of the NFL and Dr. Allen Sills, their chief medical advisor. This is important, but not the final step.
The NFLPA must still approve of the plans before teams are permitted to expand the practice field. As we have already written about, the league has authority to issue approval for players to report to training camp, and they can even fine players for not showing up, though they may not exercise this. But according to Pelissero, before teams can be permitted to allow more than 20 players in the building at a time, the union must approve of the IDER plans.
And unfortunately there is some grounds for skepticism on that front. Several times throughout this offseason, we have heard the league come out with a statement, or to filter out information to reporters, making something sound concrete and in place, only to have the NFLPA make it clear that nothing has been yet agreed to.
Which isn’t specifically a case of the league claiming that the IDER plans are now fully in place, but it shows that what the league sees as acceptable and complete has often not been so for the NFLPA. More recently, we saw players essentially laughing at the idea that team doctors said it was generally safe for players to return to play, calling out their implicit bias in favor of the organizations they work for over the players.
Still, at the end of the day, this doesn’t seem like something that should be overly complicated. There are pretty obvious things that one ought to do in response to an emergency situation involving a virus, and there are experts involved working on both sides. According to Mark Maske, they have already approved some, and are reviewing the rest.
This isn’t a debate about whether or not preseason games should be played. It’s not about whether or not and under what circumstances a player can opt out of the season. It’s not even about drills, or anything like that. This is about how to respond to a situation in which there is a potential outbreak, which is going to essentially shut a team down.