After weeks of discussions and negotiations, the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to the foundation necessary to play amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The two sides came to an agreement Friday afternoon following a NFLPA player representative vote, by a count of 29-3, in favor of the proposed changes, the union announced. Thus, the adjusted CBA became official, and training camp will commence in earnest when most veteran players arrive July 28 as originally scheduled. The NFLPA’s executive committee voted unanimously to approve the changes proposed by the NFL’s owners earlier Friday.
“The NFL clubs and the NFL Players Association approved an agreement that broadly resolves all outstanding issues relating to the opening of training camps and start of the 2020 season,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Training camps will begin as scheduled.
“We have worked collaboratively to develop a comprehensive set of protocols designed to minimize risk for fans, players, and club and league personnel. These plans have been guided by the medical directors of the NFL and the NFLPA and have been reviewed and endorsed by independent medical and public health experts, including the CDC, and many state and local public health officials. The season will undoubtedly present new and additional challenges, but we are committed to playing a safe and complete 2020 season, culminating with the Super Bowl.”
The agreed-upon deal includes an allowance for 16-man practice squads, high-risk and voluntary opt-outs of participation and the absence of a preseason for 2020, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.
For players who opt out of participating, high-risk candidates will receive a $350,000 stipend and their contract will toll, per Pelissero. Voluntary opt-outs will receive a $150,000 salary advance and their contract will toll as well. Opt-outs are due within seven days of the deal being finalized.
All of the CDC’s defined “increased risk” categories — e.g. moderate-to-severe asthma, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, etc. — are covered as “high risk” under the deal, with the exception of high-BMI.
According NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, training camp is set to be comprised of 20 days of a ramp-up period and a maximum of 14 padded practices.
“The players wanted a full ramp up of about three weeks; the NFL offered 18 days,” Rapoport said on NFL Network. “What they settled on now is on the 21st or 20th day, almost three weeks but not quite, with a couple of off days in there, teams are allowed to have padded practice. So what you’ll see is a couple weeks of strength and conditioning only after players get tested. Yes, football players are gonna be in the buildings coming this weekend, it’s gonna be great, we’re gonna be talking about it.
“We won’t see football necessarily for some time, probably be a couple weeks. And then you’ll see more OTA-style practices with helmets, but it’ll more look like kind of passing camp. And then after a couple of weeks you’ll finally get pads. But because there are no preseason games, something the NFL made clear a couple days ago, teams are allowed the ability to really ramp up slowly.”
Financially, the league will spread the impact of any 2020 revenue shortfall due to the pandemic over four years beginning in 2021. The salary cap will be at least $175 million in 2021, while the 2020 cap of $198.2 million remains unchanged. The two sides were able to reach an agreement after owners raised the minimum cap for 2021 from $165 million to $175 million and dropped their request for an $8 million reduction in cap for 2020, per Pelissero.
In the event that financial losses are not as great as anticipated, the cap will be higher in 2021 than $175 million. Setting a floor simply provides clubs with a baseline with which they can plan financially.
The anticipation of a shortfall could produce a muted free-agency period in 2021, Rapoport said.
Rosters must be trimmed down to 80 players by Aug. 16, according to Rapoport. No more than 80 players are allowed in the building at one time.
“Teams may have to have different shifts of players,” Rapoport said. “Rookies and second-year guys, and then veterans.”
In the event that games are lost for whatever reason, players with guaranteed money in their contract will still receive their compensation, though that money would come later on, “either next year or in the next year that he is a free agent,” Rapoport reported.