Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen a number of players from across professional sports in the United States decide to simply sit out from playing, coming to the conclusion that it's not safe for them personally to suit up and hit the field. The MLB and NBA have all had a number of players who have decided to go down this path and now it appears like the option may be on the table for NFL players as well. In the league's latest proposal to the NFLPA as the two sides try to hammer out each detail of what the 2020 season will look like, the NFL is suggesting that players could opt out of the 2020 season with a written notice by Aug. 1, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network.
The two sides have been discussing the possibility of players being able to opt-out of the 2020 season for the past few weeks, but this is the first time that hard date has been put on the table to this point. This Aug. 1 deadline does give teams over a month to figure out a replacement for a given player who has opted out prior to the regular season kicking off, beginning with the Texans and Chiefs on Thursday, Sept. 10. The first Sunday of the 2020 season is currently scheduled for Sept. 13.
As for who can opt-out, it appears like it's not limited to a specific group. Those who have pre-existing conditions can decide to sit out along with players who have family members with pre-existing conditions. Even players who have general concerns about COVID-19 are allowed to opt-out, which essentially means any player can choose this path if they so choose.
Across the NFL, there have already been several players saying they are a bit wary about playing in 2020. A number of Patriots, including linebacker Dont'a Hightower, discussed their trepidation on social media, as did Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who said "I'd be lying if I said I was comfortable starting back up."
What is still unclear about this latest proposal from the NFL, however, is how a player opting out would be impacted as it relates to their contract status with a given team. That aspect will need to be given some clarity prior to that proposed Aug. 1 deadline.