The NFL and its players don't seem to be on the same page.
The league sent out a memo on Saturday morning, laying out the timeline for players of 30 teams (Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans can have rookies report earlier) to begin reporting to NFL training camps, beginning with rookies on July 21.
But 49ers stars like George Kittle and Richard Sherman joined a group of NFL players expressing public criticism in the league's lack of transparency regarding health and safety protocols for teams amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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The NFL has ignored the safety recommendations from the experts that THEY hired. We all love this game and want to go out and compete with our brothers. The NFL needs to provide a safe work environment for us to do that. #WeWantToPlay— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) July 19, 2020
Other NFL stars including former NFL MVP quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees were among the many stars around the league who voiced their concerns on Twitter Sunday morning.
We need Football! We need sports! We need hope! The NFL’s unwillingness to follow the recommendations of their own medical experts will prevent that. If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. Get it done @NFL— Drew Brees (@drewbrees) July 19, 2020
I am concerned.— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) July 19, 2020
My wife is pregnant.@NFL Training camp is about to start..
And there’s still No Clear Plan on Player Health & Family Safety. 🤷🏾
We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones. #WeWantToPlay
We all want to play this season, but we need to stay safe in order to actually have a season! It’s time for the @NFL to step up and do their part so that us players can be safe at work and go play the game we love! #WeWantToPlay— Carson Wentz (@cj_wentz) July 19, 2020
You want to watch football this year? Us players need to remain healthy in order to make that happen. The NFL needs to do their part in order to bring football back safely in 2020. Please address health and safety concerns so we can play football this year. We want to play!— Jared Goff (@JaredGoff16) July 19, 2020
If the NFL and NFL players association can't reach an agreement on protocols before Monday, rookies from the Chiefs and Texans will be expected to report to their respective facilities on Monday. But lacking an agreement could leave the league open to a grievance, which seems likely given how publicly frustrated players around the NFL appear to be.
NFL Media's Tom Pelissero gave some context as to the particular issues the union and many players seem to be at odds with.
Translating the #WeWantToPlay posts you're seeing now: Joint medical committee recommended a 21-day acclimation period. NFL asked players to show up 2 weeks early to accomodate it; NFLPA said no. NFL shortened acclimation period to accommodate 2 preseason games. Union wants 0.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 19, 2020
That's on top of remaining questions over opt-out language, testing frequency, etc. Clubs are enforcing management rights by setting reporting dates; players must show up or face discipline. If there's a grievance, it'd be over unsafe work environment, as players' posts portend.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 19, 2020
Sherman is the 49ers' union representative for the NFLPA, and never has been shy about voicing his concerns over the NFL's response to the pandemic.
Players want an acclimation period, and the NFLPA already recommended canceling the entire preseason in early July to allow for one.
Every American sports league has seen hurdles in their attempts to return to action with the pandemic ongoing, and the NFL is the only one of the four major leagues in the U.S. that hasn't altered the 2020 regular season schedule in any way.
What's clear from today's movement is that NFL players really want to compete in a 2020 season. But they also aren't willing to jeopardize the health and safety of their families unless they feel the league is doing everything in its power to protect them.