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Nick Sundberg thinks NFL should be cautious, follow MLB and NHL's lead in preparing for 2020 season

Nick Sundberg thinks NFL should be cautious, follow MLB and NHL's lead in preparing for 2020 season

As the NFL continues to work toward creating a plan that allows the 2020 season to start in a safe and effective way amid the coronavirus pandemic, numerous players, coaches and league officials are tasked with brainstorming the best possible solution. Among them is Washington Redskins long snapper Nick Sundberg, as the special teams veteran is the team's player representative for the National Football League Players Association.

With the calendar turning to June and OTAs and other training sessions delayed, the pressure to make a decision on how teams can work together in person continues to rise. Sundberg understands the concerns but believes the best option at this point is to not rush into anything.

“I think to be cautious is the biggest thing. I don’t want to rush into anything," Sundberg told the Redskins Talk Podcast. "Especially since we have time on our side right now, we’re not missing games today, we’re months away from that.”

Sundberg is correct in saying that time is a valuable resource for the NFL right now. Unlike other professional leagues, each passing day isn't a delay of the regular season or playoffs. Leagues like the NHL and MLB are itching to get back and salvage lost seasons, football isn't there just yet as game action isn't in jeopardy until August.

Therefore, Sundberg thinks the best course of action at the current moment is to observe what the other leagues do in the coming months. They'll be back to work first, and the NFL should see how things play out and learn from successes and failures. 

From there, the NFL would have a clearer picture of what could really happen when football returns. If the results are positive, the league can follow suit. If not, it will be up to Sundberg and company to re-work the policies done by others to create more progress in the future.

“If it were me leading our approach, I would create a blueprint from the MLB and the NHL. I would wait to see what they do and see what works and what doesn’t," Sundberg said. "Compare and contrast the two leagues on how they went about the situation of getting teams in the facilities, how they went about practice, who was allowed in the building, how they went about games.”

“I would try and model, take what they do and make it better if we can. Unless they just roll out a perfect plan, then that’s our blueprint," Sundberg added.

Besides examining policies put in place, Sundberg understands the importance of looking at numbers and trends. It's one thing to see how the other leagues go about having players and staff together on and off the field, but it's another to see what the virus does in that situation. 

"Track data over a month, month and a half, six weeks," Sundberg said. "Let’s see how many players contracted, how many coaches, how many front office and staff members and that sort of thing.”

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Real-time studies based on what happens when other sports return will largely dictate what the NFL can do, but Sundberg also understands that football isn't the same as other sports. When training camp begins, rosters are a lot larger than what baseball and hockey teams carry. Certain measures may be effective for those groups of players, but what happens when a full football franchise needs to be accounted for?

Additionally, contact is a necessary element of the game. At some point, teams are going to need to run drills where players block and hit each other and it won't be able to be avoided. How does the league prepare for that level of closeness? These are all things that Sundberg and others in the Players Association have to consider when laying the groundwork.

“For us, it’s so interesting because we have 90 guys on the roster right now and we have such a big organization, you know," Sundberg said. "You can’t have 10 guys over there, 10 guys over there, 10 guys over there. You can spread out on the fields, but at some point we have to come and do some one-on-ones. Guys are going to be breathing in each other’s faces.” 

Safety for players, staff and others involved in football operations is essential, but it's not the only factor that goes into decision-making. As recent negotiations in the MLB have shown, contracts and payments will determine how the season plays out. The NFL is no different.

As Sundberg explains, NFL players are typically paid in season, as game checks and incentives make up their contract. That isn't necessarily a concern right now as the belief is that all games will be played, but there are other stipulations in tentative plans that Sundberg and other players don't agree with.

“Some of the things I’ve heard I haven’t fallen in love with," Sundberg said.

Specifically, a proposed idea on how to handle players who contracted coronavirus was not a procedure he was a fan of. During the podcast, he noted that there was a suggestion that those with the virus would be played on a two-week disabled list, rather than the Injured Reserve. However, coronavirus would be viewed as a non-football injury. In that instance, teams would not be obligated to pay the players who ended up on the list due to coronavirus.

Clearly, that wasn't something the players were going to go for.

“There’s no way a player could get the virus at work and then you say it’s a non-football injury, right?" Sundberg explained.

The long snapper's insight into how the NFL is handling the unclear future of the 2020 season has shown that a lot still needs to be done, but only time will tell how that happens. Other leagues will potentially return soon, and that can help the professional football league in its efforts to come up with the best course of action. However, tough football-specific decisions will still be on the table.

The stress and uncertainty of the time can be a lot, but it's not something Sundberg is shying away from. He was elected to help do what's best for his team and other players around the league, and he's looking forward to fulfilling that promise.

“I think there’s a lot of work that needs to happen moving forward before we even get to the point of stepping on the field for a game," Sundberg said. "But I’m kind of looking forward to cyphering through it all and seeing some of the creative things that guys that are put in place to do that have come up with.” 

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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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Robert Griffin III and Redskins' Nick Sundberg debate opposing sides of proposed CBA

Robert Griffin III and Redskins' Nick Sundberg debate opposing sides of proposed CBA

Before we get into the lengthy debate between Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III and Redskins long snapper Nick Sundberg regarding the newly proposed NFL CBA, let's get all the facts straight. 

First the what. The new CBA, expected to begin in 2021, calls for a 17-game regular season, a higher percentage of the league's revenue going to the players, a shortened preseason, upgraded pensions for retired players and more roster spots, among other amendments. 

The players' share of the revenue would increase to 48% and could grow to 48.5%, resulting in approximately $5 billion more money per year going to the players instead of the owners.

Some players want more, some aren't interested in continuing negotiations and risking a lockout. When the NFLPA voted to send the proposed CBA to the full player membership, it sparked plenty of debate online between players. Especially between two former teammates in Griffin and Sundberg. 

Griffin was on the side of holding out for more money coming to the players. That the players and owners split the revenue down the middle.

Sundberg, on the other hand, would rather get a small victory now than risk a catastrophic situation for the players. 

Griffin then went on to argue how players shouldn't negotiate with a mindset of fearing the worst. 

"You can’t negotiate a CBA from a position of fear," Griffin wrote. "That’s our union's job to ensure that we are properly [equipped] to endure a work stoppage. Your position is, 'Well it’s the best offer we got so we should accept it.' This is a time to flip the script and get more of what we work for."

"That’s a super easy thing to say. 'Just get more.' But at what cost?" Sundberg replied. "Two years of a strike? We’d lose over 13 billion in player money in that time. Say we get to 50/50 after that. It’ll take 20+ years to recoup those lost funds. And guys careers will end because of that action."

The new CBA is a complicated issue in the league. Players believe they deserve more money, but owners have a lot of power in negotiations. Sundberg and Griffin both have valid points, and they discussed the issue in far more tweets than what's shown here. 

Players will have to consider both sides and all the consequences that could come with holding out for what they deserve. There isn't a set date for the player membership vote, though the NFLPA passing the deal is a decent barometer for what conclusion the players will come to. 

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