By the Thursday deadline, several dozen NFL players elected to opt out of participating in the 2020 season, which is far more than any of the other major leagues saw in their sport—then again, NFL rosters contain far more players, so by proportion, the differences are not as substantial as it may first indicate.
It hasn’t just been professional football players exercising their rights in the name of their own personal health and safety and that of their loved ones, however, as college players have been active in using what little means are available to them to try to take the best course of action for themselves.
One thing that is helpful is being a very good player, such as Caleb Farley, a cornerback for Virginia Tech. Over the past two seasons, he has recorded six interceptions with 19 passes defensed, including four interceptions and 12 passes defensed last season in 10 games, with a touchdown at the end of one of those returns.
He chose to sit out the 2020 season, and has since employed the services of NFL super agent Drew Rosenhaus as he now begins preparations to enter the 2021 NFL Draft. He reached the decision to take this course of action largely based on the lackadaisical safety measures that he claims he witnessed on-campus.
“This year at Virginia Tech, at our workouts, I started having deep concerns about staying healthy. Guys were going home, going to Myrtle Beach, coming back to campus, and we weren’t getting tested”, he wrote earlier this month in a guest segment for Peter King’s Football Morning in America.
“We’re all together, working out, close to each other, and you have no real idea who might have it, if anybody might have it. One day I looked around, and we were like 100-deep in our indoor facility, no masks. My concern grew more and more”.
In his piece, he openly wondered how his decision would be viewed by NFL scouts and the teams who are looking to draft him. He would not be the first prominent athlete to sit out a season, of course. Nick Bosa just did so in 2018, and he was drafted second-overall last year, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Farley said that he doesn’t know if he will be the first of many college players who choose not to play, but he does know that there are many who are seriously questioning playing. “Because there’s no way of knowing what you’re signing up for if there’s not a good testing program”.
Throughout the past couple of months, we have heard many reports of outbreaks among college football teams. Earlier this week, Rutgers reported 28 cases of Covid-19 on its football roster, with the entire program being forced into quarantine.
Frankly speaking, college players have a much stronger case to ‘justify’ not playing this season, and not just because they are not paid for their services. The reality is that it’s impossible to expect college campuses, hundreds of them all around the country, to have the same sort of resources to safeguard their players the way a professional league like the NFL does