NFLPA president and Browns center JC Tretter criticized the NFL online Tuesday and said the league “is unwilling to prioritize player safety” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Like many other industries, football’s resistance to change is based on the belief that the best way to run things is the way we’ve always run things,” Tretter wrote in a post on the NFLPA’s website. “That pervasive thought process will stop this season in its tracks.”
The NFL plans to reduce the number of preseason games from four to two and establish a 23-day acclimatization period in training camp while anticipating that players will be less prepared to compete after a virtual offseason program. However, the NFLPA’s board of representatives pushed back on the plan and voted to recommend not playing any preseason games ahead of the 2020 regular season.
According to Tretter, the NFL has not provided a medical reason for wanting two preseason games, but instead, said the matchups are important for evaluating rosters and checking game protocols.
Tretter also pointed out concerns for increased injuries this season or players contracting the coronavirus. He said the NFLPA and NFL formed a joint committee of doctors and trainers to bring players “up to speed” ahead of the 2020 season and establish protocols to address COVID-19. While the NFL agreed to suggestions like no joint practices and no fans at training camp, Tretter said the league should have agreed to more items.
“Despite these experts’ assessment that teams face a serious risk of player-injury spikes this year (based on past NFL data and recent findings from sports leagues that have already returned to play this year), the NFL is unwilling to prioritize player safety and believes that the virus will bend to football,” he wrote.
Tretter added that players don’t want to return to work only to see the season shut down.
“Every decision this year that prioritizes normalcy over innovation, custom over science or even football over health, significantly reduces our chances of completing the full season,” he said.
“We don’t want to merely return to work and have the season shut down before we even get started. The NFLPA will do its part to advocate for player safety. We will continue to hold the NFL accountable and demand that the league use data, science and the recommendations of its own medical experts to make decisions.”