With less than two months to go until Week 1 of the NFL season, it's still not clear if Week 1 of the NFL season is actually going to happen. Before any football can take place, the NFL and the NFL Player's Association have to come to an agreement on what the 2020 season is going to look like.
Not only do the two sides have to agree to safety protocols due to the pandemic, but they also have to answer several key questions like what will happen to a player who chooses to sit out the season. As the NFL and NFLPA continue to negotiate, some of the demands from the NFLPA side have leaked out and it will be interesting to see if the NFL agrees to any of them.
According to ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler, some of the NFLPA's most notable requests have to do with players being given the option to sit out the season. Under the NFLPA proposal, any at-risk player who decides to sit out the season would still be paid their full base salary, but not any bonus money. If a player opts out because he has an at-risk family member, that player wouldn't get his base salary, but he would "earn an accrued season and benefits."
The NFLPA also wants to see an opt-out clause given to players who have already reported to training camp. Although the NFL is reportedly planning to allow an opt-out clause, the league wants a hard deadline with the clause, meaning that players wouldn't be able to back out after the deadline has passed. The NFLPA wants players to be able to back out after the deadline in the event they get to training camp and then just don't feel comfortable.
The NFLPA also wants to make sure that players are taken care of financially, which is why it wants a $250,000 stipend paid out to every player who shows up to training camp, but that stipend comes with a catch. The money would only be paid out if the season was canceled AFTER the players report to camp. Players would also get a $500,000 stipend if the season were to start, but then later be shut down.
The $500,000 stipend could be something that the NFL agrees to if it means the league's 32 teams don't have to pay out the rest of a player's contract in the event that the season is canceled. As noted by Pro Football Talk, the NFLPA currently holds the upper-hand in negotiations from a financial standpoint, because the new CBA doesn't contain any sort of force majeuere clause. That basically means that if one game is played in 2020, players would technically be entitled to their full contract, even if the final 15 games are canceled. Of course, if that were to happen, it would crush NFL revenues in 2020, which would lead to a much lower salary cap in 2021, which is something players don't want. The $500,000 stipend could be the players way of compromising on how much money they'll get paid if the season gets reduced.
One other request the NFLPA is making has to do with suspended players. Any player who is set to serve a suspension in 2020 wouldn't see their suspension carried over to 2021 if the season is canceled. So if a player has a four-game suspension this year, it would basically be considered time served if there's no season.
Besides those requests, the NFLPA also has a a few more that have already been made public. The biggest one is that the player's association wants to see all preseason games canceled. The NFL has already reduced the preseason down to two weeks, but the NFLPA wants that cut down to zero. The two sides also have yet to agree on how often players will be tested and whether or not wearing a face shield will be required. Oakley has developed a full face shield that's supposed to minimize the spread of coronavirus. However, the face shield isn't a popular option with players, and at least one player -- J.J. Watt -- has said he'll sit out the season if the NFL requires players to wear the shield.
If the NFL doesn't agree to the NFLPA demands or agree to compromise that makes the player's association happy, the player could simply decide not to play. Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith has already said that risking his health to play is not a "risk worth taking."
There are also several questions that still need to be answered before the season starts, like what happens if a player tests positive in the 24 hours after a game. Would that mean that every player from both teams would have to isolate? If a defensive player tests positive, would only his defensive teammates and the opponents' offense have to isolate? In either instance, it an entire unit has to isolate, that would wreak havoc on the following week's schedule.
Basically, there's a lot of unanswered questions and the NFL is slowly running out of time to answer them.