The NFL, while having made no announcements just yet, is resolute in its stance that it will hold only two preseason exhibition games this offseason per team. The reported plan is for weeks one and four to be dropped, and schedules will be adjusted to assure that every team hosts one game and is on he road for another. This may even result in preseason opponents being shifted.
The NFLPA, however, is not fully satisfied with the proposal as talks continue (as of the writing of this article). For example, Brandon McManus, the NFLPA player representative for the Denver Broncos, responded to an Adam Schefter report about the preseason being reduced to two games, saying, “be ready for 1 or 0 preseason games. Won’t be 2”.
The Players Association, naturally, has doubts about the efficacy of holding exhibition games that count for nothing to their teams (other than revenues) and for which their players are not proportionally compensated based on their contracts (meaning it’s not part of the 17 paychecks they get during the regular season as part of their base salary) in light of the risks involved of playing during a pandemic.
NFL teams are currently expected to be eligible to have rookies report to training camp as early as July 19, which really isn’t very far away from right now, so time is of the essence for the two parties to hammer out what everything is going to look like. Even if it is unlikely that most teams will have players report extra early.
As Mike Florio points out, the NFL does not need the NFLPA to sign off on whatever changes they might make to the preseason relative to this incident, since the CBA only stipulates that the league may hold up to four preseason games in a regular season of 16 games. It doesn’t say anything about the NFLPA needing to agree upon any decision to shorten the preseason.
“The broader point is that everything currently is on the table”, he writes, “as the NFL and NFLPA continue to hash out the details for training camp, the preseason, and the regular season. The NFLPA has the ability to push for no preseason games; the NFL would want some other concession for that”.
But exactly what kind of concession could the NFL possibly expect from the NFLPA in exchange for no preseason games? Something else that includes a greater risk of contracting the coronavirus? Perhaps a proportional redistribution of revenue sharing for games lost if it ends up at one or zero games.
Bottom line, while the NFLPA may be haggling to potentially eliminate the preseason altogether, it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll see that happen. The NFL is committed to the decision of two preseason games, and unless the pandemic more directly intervenes to force their hands, that’s what it’s going to be.