With COVID-19 cases rising in many states, some are wondering if there should be an NFL preseason at all. The 2020 NFL Preseason is set to begin next month, and there are some questioning the safety and logistics surrounding it. Earlier this month, the NFL cut the preseason down to just two games.
The NFL has released safety protocols for the upcoming season. Some of these protocols include barring people from sharing personal items, prohibiting on-field fan seating, and turning away anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or above on game days. However, players and coaches are not required to wear face masks.
With players being unsatisfied with safety protocols and the current rise in COVID-19 cases, it is worth asking if the 2020 preseason should still take place.
Safety Measure Scrutiny
Not all players approve of some of the safety measures being implemented. Recently, the NFL banned post-game jersey swaps between players for the upcoming season. Many players were unhappy with the decision.
On Twitter, San Francisco 49ers cornerback and NFLPA Vice President Richard Sherman expressed his disappointment with the news. Sherman wrote that “this is a perfect example of NFL thinking in a nutshell. Players can go engage in a full contact game and do it safely. However, it is deemed unsafe for them to exchange jerseys after said game.”
Sherman was not the only player to voice discontent with the new guidelines. Indianapolis Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox said on Twitter that the decision “makes no sense” since players “touch and hit each other all game.”
In May, ESPN announced that the league was testing face masks for players to wear on the field. While there have not been any recent updates on this matter, well known NFL players like Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt have spoken out against the matter.
Watt said in an interview with Pro Football Talk that if players do end up being required to wear a mask, then people should not “see [him] on the field.”
NFLPA vs. NFL
Last week, the National Football League Players Association sent a memo to the NFL to request the cancellation of the entire 2020 preseason.
The NFL has reasoned that keeping two preseason games allows players to get acclimated and to encourage COVID-19 testing.
In response, the NFLPA says that the NFL has “offered no medical justification that supports their decision two retain two preseason games, nor any medical justification for shortening the previously agreed acclimation period, which is medically recommended for avoidance of injuries during the season.”
NFLPA President and Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter said via Mike Jones of USA Today that “there are a lot of questions unanswered” and that every answer “brings up three more questions.”
In a post on the NFLPA website, Tretter emphasized how making decisions that prioritize “normalcy over innovation, custom over science or even football health” will seriously reduce the chances of having a full NFL season this year.
There is no resolution in this dispute between the NFLPA and NFL yet, but the organizations are expected to meet today to discuss how to proceed.
How Important is the Preseason?
Some players are still unsure of whether they want the preseason to be canceled or not. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt told ESPN’s Sarah Barshop that “if the [NFL] doctors and the [NFLPA] doctors decide that it is not in the best safety interest of the players to have them, then we don’t have to [have preseason games].”
However, Watt also understands the importance of the preseason to lesser-known players. As a seasoned vet, the preseason is not a high priority for him.
“But I also at the same time think about undrafted guys and the guys who make a roster appearance in the fourth preseason game and how special that is and how many opportunities would be missed from that,” said Watt.
One of the 2019 preseason stars was Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi. Sheehy-Guiseppi was temporarily homeless while trying to earn a spot on the Cleveland Browns roster. While he did not make the Browns’ final roster, he gained a lot of traction during the preseason. Sheehy-Guiseppi impressed players and coaches alike during camp to make a preseason roster spot. He even scored an 86-yard return punt return touchdown in Cleveland’s win over the Washington Redskins.
Although the preseason is still scheduled to take place as of now, we have to see how things progress this week. The NFL preseason is a place for unknown players to be discovered, but those opportunities might have to cease this year for the safety of everyone involved.
As J.C. Tretter said, “players don’t want just want to return to work; [they] want to stay at work.”
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