The NFL and NFL Players Association have a lot to work out before the start of training camp—which remains planned to begin at the end of the month. And if the president of the NFLPA (and Browns center) JC Tretter is any sign of how negotiations are currently going, the two sides have a long, long way to go.
Tretter penned a public statement on Tuesday morning expressing his extreme concern over how the NFL is currently handling things in regards to COVID-19 and player safety.
The NFLPA’s main concern has to do with two sticking points: the slow ramp-up period of training camp and the number of preseason games. Tretter believes that an extended training camp period of 48 days is necessary, as recommended by a joint committee of doctors and strengths coaches. Tretter uses injury data from 2011—when a lockout shortened the offseason for players—to explain why this extended period is so necessary.
“Injuries increased by 25%. Achilles injuries more than doubled and hamstring strains went up 44%,” Tretter wrote.
But the NFL, Tretter alleges, is trying to push business as usual in an effort to get to the regular season on time.
“Despite these experts’ assessment that teams face a serious risk of player-injury spikes this year (based on past NFL data and recent findings from sports leagues that have already returned to play this year), the NFL is unwilling to prioritize player safety and believes that the virus will bend to football,” Tretter writes.
As for preseason games, the NFLPA unanimously voted to eliminate all four games this year, but the NFL continues to push for at least two.
“When we asked for a medical reason to play games that don’t count in the standings during an ongoing pandemic, the NFL failed to provide one,” Tretter said.
The strongly-worded letter is a reminder that the NFL doesn’t simply need to “defeat” the pandemic, but they also need to negotiate with their employees on a deal that makes them feel safe and comfortable to return to work. And with training camp three weeks away, the clock is ticking.