As I’ve previously written about, there have been some teams that have considered the possibility of carrying fewer than the standard 90 players into training camp with them as they get set to head there four weeks from now. According to Mike Jones, the NFLPA is now also discussing this as a possibility as all parties try to figure out how best to protect players from contracting Covid-19.
It wasn’t until 2012, under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, that offseason rosters actually expanded to 90 players, as it had previously been 80. Suggestions of returning to 80 players or even fewer this offseason in response to the coronavirus have been discussed, and it is logical.
Jones writes, however, that “not all” within the NFLPA discussions are in favor of this proposal, and it’s not clear if it will happen, since of course it means a loss of jobs. If you take away 10 players on every team, that’s 320 jobs, even if they are temporary offseason jobs that would be gone by September. Cut the roster down by 15, and then you’re at 480 jobs.
With training camps set to open four weeks from now, discussions between the NFL and NFLPA are intensifying about what precautions must be taken to ensure a safe work environment for everyone involved, including coaches and all other staff, as well as any other employee that is in a team facility.
The irony is, of course, that if you have a coronavirus outbreak on your roster, having a smaller roster makes it more difficult to keep practicing going with the players that you do have. But at the same time, the more players you have, the greater risk there is for an outbreak to occur in the first place.
There is no one way to approach this, and it’s not clear that there are many ‘right’ ways, though there are certain basic and obvious things that should be done, including practicing social distancing when possible, wearing masks when possible, and generally being on top of personal hygiene, with routine disinfection processes of the facilities.
We should know relatively soon what the protocols will look like for the opening of training camp. Recently, DeMaurice Smith of the NFLPA said that the two parties were down to the granular level of the talks, and he felt confident that they would be resolved in time to open up camps.
What happens from there is a different story and remains to be seen. Sports in other countries have generally had success in keeping their players from contracting the virus, but the US has been the hardest-hit country in the world, and many teams are based in high-risk areas.