With an opt-out deadline of Thursday at 4 p.m. now set, we’ll see if a final flurry of players decide to take a pass on the 2020 NFL season.
As of Tuesday morning, 50 players have opted out of the 2020 season. Eight of them were Patriots — by far the highest number of opt-outs in the league (the Cowboys and Browns have the second most with three each).
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This deadline is earlier than the original one the NFL and NFLPA originally agreed upon. Initially, the deadline was to come seven days after the two sides signed off on the myriad amendments to the CBA to get the 2020 season off the ground. But the process of getting the two sides to actually finalize the deal and sign it took so long, the league wanted to move up the date.
That rankled Patriots safety Devin McCourty, who railed on Sunday against the league tinkering with the agreed-upon seven-day period.
In the end, the league got its way with some concessions coming back to the players.
As it stands now, there are two ways an NFL player can opt out of the 2020 season after the 4 p.m. ET Thursday deadline:
1. A new diagnosis he has one of the agreed-upon high-risk conditions.
2. A player’s family member dies, is hospitalized or otherwise moves to a medical facility because of COVID-19 or related condition.
If a player lives with someone who is a high-risk individual, he can request alternate housing that the team will pay for. The cost of that housing will count as a player benefit and be reflected on the salary cap.
Obviously, this is some stark language. A player can opt out if a family member dies because of COVID-19? If someone in your home is later designated high-risk, the league will help you move out?
No matter how remote the possibility of worst-case scenarios may be, seeing them spelled out is jarring.
With all teams reported and now into the strength-and-conditioning portion of this ramp-up, there’s probably a developing level of comfort among players for the precautions in place and logistics. The question of “what’s it going to be like” has passed.
But for players who’ve now seen what it’s like or who bristle at the rules now officially in place — a fine system for “refusal to weak mask, PPE or tracking device or maintain social distancing during team travel” for instance — that Thursday deadline could be busy.