The NFL and the NFLPA agreed to final terms on the addendum to the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement, the chief hang-up being determining the date by which players would be required to formally opt out of participating in the 2020 season in order to qualify for a stipend.
The language of the original agreement stated that the deadline would be seven days from the time that the deal was finalized, but the deal had not been finalized until last night, so it remained open indefinitely—at this point, 11 days. The new language states that the deadline is Thursday at 4PM.
Many players were not happy about this. For example, New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty, who has seen many of his teammates choose to opt out, said about the league’s attempt to move up the deadline, “I think it is an absolute joke that the NFL is changing the opt-out period, mainly because they don’t want to continue to see guys opt out. I’m sure they’re shocked about how many guys have opted out”. He added that it was “terrible” and “B.S. that the league has changed that date”.
The real concern for many, though, was that there was a deadline at all, with some posing the argument that players don’t yet know under what circumstances they will be asked to perform in 2020, and until they do, it will be impossible for players to be certain that they want to opt out.
Training camps around the NFL only opened about a week ago, and most of that time has been spent testing for Covid-19, with dozens and dozens of players around the league being placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list. Teams have not even done any formal practices yet, of any kind, all year. So how can players definitively know?
Beyond that, many players are also concerned about the fact that the language remains unclear about the $150,000 voluntary opt-out stipend that the majority of the roughly 50 players who have opted out will be scheduled to receive.
There is uncertainty, for example, over whether or not players will be required to pay that money back if they do not make a team in 2021. For low-level players, such as, for example, rookie or second-year former late-round draft picks who are not starters, that is a serious issue. These players have not made a lot of money, relatively speaking, so paying that money back would be significant to them.
The NFL and NFLPA may have agreed on the deadline for players to opt out, but there are still some issues that need clarification, at least for some players. I can understand how some are feeling frustrated and unequipped with the full range of knowledge needed to make the best, most well-informed decision about participation this year.