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When will the NFL kick off play? NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith not ready to predict

When will the NFL kick off play? NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith not ready to predict

A world without sports was impossible to imagine just a few weeks ago.   

Even under the worst circumstances, sports brings us together, provides hope during times of adversity, heals the broken and offers a glimpse of better times to come. That isn’t available now to help us distance ourselves from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  

The NBA, NHL, and MLS seasons are suspended. MLB’s season is delayed. College spring sports are cancelled. This is the new reality of social distancing and quarantine.  

In these trying times, the NFL has provided some sense of normalcy because its offseason could go on despite some necessary adjustments. Free agency went off without a hitch and the NFL Draft is expected to do the same later this month. But what happens after that? Will the season begin on time? 

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is taking the cautious approach.  

“I think it’s hard, if not impossible, to make concrete projections on what things might look like three, four, five, six months from now,” Smith said.  

Where we are today could not have been predicted months ago, leaving uncertainty in its wake. Yes, sports fans are desperate for football. But this scenario is just bigger than the business of the game. So, we pause. 

“The country is in desperate need of good leadership right now to make sure that we halt the spread of the virus, that we try to make sure that we are doing everything to make the peak of this outbreak happen as quickly as possible,” Smith said.  

Teams are not allowed to meet with players currently. And while the league has yet to cancel off-season training activities, Covid-19 is disrupting day-to-day business. Virtual contact is expected soon, but when players and coaches meet for the first time in person may not come until training camp in July.  Even that is in question. The 2020 Summer Olympics were scheduled for the same time in Tokyo and they were postponed weeks ago.  

While we don’t know when football will return, we do know it will.  But will it be different?  It’s been suggested games could be played without fans. Smith says contingency plans are coming together, but games without fans seems unlikely.  If the virus hasn’t been contained, don’t expect players to come out first and play alone.  

“I certainly am a fan, like everybody else out there,” Smith said. “Whether it was being a fan of basketball, baseball, or being a fan of hockey – all of that got cancelled because it was in the public’s best interest.” 

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A team could test all of its players and be in the clear, but what about when they go home to their families?  Or resume normal activities outside of football?  It’s too much of a risk.    

“Football certainly has a strong and meaningful place in American culture, whether it’s played in high school, college, or played on the professional level,” Smith said. “But first and foremost, we have to make decisions that are in best interest of the public and best interest of the players.” 

The NFL and the NFLPA have gathered the best doctors they can to monitor the safety of their players and organization staffs.  The biggest determining factor on when football, and all sports, return is what you do at home to help slow the spread.  

Do your part, stay home and don’t expect football to return before it returns with you, the fan, who hopefully will be cheering from the stands, from your homes. Soon enough it will be safe to return. And when that happens, the players will be ready, too.  

“I know that there is going to be a group of people that are going to love to play football on the field,” Smith said.  

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The NFL 'failed' with pass interference replay rule, NFL exec Troy Vincent says

The NFL 'failed' with pass interference replay rule, NFL exec Troy Vincent says

The NFL admits that it failed last year with a botched implementation of its pass interference replay reviews. That will have an impact on any new rules going forward. 

Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, told NBC’s Peter King on Friday that the league has learned its lesson: Rules will not be rushed. The NFL will do its best to figure out the real-world consequences before pushing changes that do more harm than good. 

That was clearly the case with the pass interference rule, which was applied so inconsistently last season that the Competition Committee didn’t even forward it for a vote to extend it at an owners’ meeting last month. Upcoming proposed rule changes on onsides kicks and the use of a sky judge – a member of the officiating crew who would be in the press box at a video monitor – are on the table during an NFL owners’ video conference meeting on May 28. 

“We cannot fail this year,” Vincent told King. “We saw, a year ago, when [the pass-interference rule] played out, starting with myself, what we put in place last year . . . Those outcomes were not good for professional football. Because we didn’t do the proper due diligence, it played out publicly. The last thing people should be talking about is the way the game is officiated. They [officials] should be faceless objects, managing and facilitating game flow.

“We failed. I’m first in line. I shared that [with league officials]. I failed, as the leader of that department. I failed. We cannot allow that to happen again. What did we learn from that? We’ve got to do our due diligence. You can’t rush and just shove something in there without knowing all the consequences. And we found that out last year, live and in action, publicly.”

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Ron Rivera's first meeting with Redskins: Nick Sundberg, Tress Way share details

Ron Rivera's first meeting with Redskins: Nick Sundberg, Tress Way share details

Ron Rivera spoke to roughly 130 people on Zoom last week — including players, other coaches and support staff — in what was his first truly team-wide meeting with the Redskins.

Rivera's goal that day was to establish the kind of culture he's aiming to build in Washington, and while he clearly would've preferred to lay that foundation in person, he still hoped everyone came away from the meeting with a solid idea of his vision.

Well, according to Tress Way and Nick Sundberg, the coach accomplished that — and much more. 

"I think I ran downstairs and I might’ve tackled my son Beau at two years old," Way told the Redskins Talk podcast during a long interview that also featured Sundberg. "It was like six or seven minutes and it was just intense."

Rivera's voice, Way explained, never became too loud as he addressed multiple levels of the organization. What he lacked in volume, however, he made up for with his message and the conviction he delivered it with, stressing to those in the conference that the Redskins would control their attitude, preparation and effort as long as he was leading the franchise.

"Now everybody knows the standard that is set," Way said. "And I’m telling you, in and out, this dude went through a few slides, there was no ifs, ands or buts. There was no confusion. You could not have misunderstood."

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Sundberg agreed with Way's assessment.

"That is exactly how he comes across in person, too," the longest-tenured Redskin said. "Super nice guy, easy to talk to, you can sit and tell stories and laugh and that sort of thing. But when it comes to talking shop, he’s honest and I appreciate that about him. I want to know exactly what you’re looking for from me and how you want me to do it. If I can’t do it, that’s on me. But at least give me the opportunity to tell me every single thing that’s expected of me."

Rivera will be Sundberg's third full-time coach with the Burgundy and Gold, following Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden. Because the long snapper didn't leave the area until February, he had the chance to interact with Rivera face-to-face in the building. Those run-ins, as well as what Sundberg's seen online, have invigorated him.

"Any time you get new leadership," Sundberg said, "it should motivate you to look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Was I a part of the problem or am I part of the solution?’"

In this virtual offseason, the two experienced specialists have actually found themselves acting like rookies at times. While both typically get to every team function early, they're making sure to really stay on top of that now. Way is even doing what he can to spruce up how he looks in front of his laptop.

"Five minutes before that meeting was supposed to start, I logged on, made sure my lighting was good, made sure there was not anything going down on this side," he said.

"He definitely gets that out of people," Sundberg added. "They want to make sure everything is perfect because they don’t want to come off the wrong way."

Rivera's job with the Redskins is going to be a demanding one. Washington is starting this decade on the heels of one of its worst ever, and he's being trusted to right the entire operation. 

Judging by these reviews, though, he's already pulled off one extremely challenging task, and that's holding a smooth Zoom meeting where what was supposed to be communicated was successfully communicated. If he can do that, then the whole winning football games thing should be a breeze.

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