If you're a fan of the NFL (and only the NFL) then you would've appeared to have lucked out when it came to the timing of the coronavirus spreading throughout the U.S. The Super Bowl was easily fitted into the 2020 sporting schedule, and then about a month afterward said virus fucked shit up for the in-progress NBA and NHL seasons. It also de-railed Major League Baseball two weeks before the new year was set to begin.
This, of course, is to say absolutely nothing of prep sports and pro leagues outside the Big Four.
That said we wrote "would've" in the opening paragraph because now the NFL season is right around the corner, every team starts their training camp(s) later this month, and yet the virus continues to rage like a virus that nobody's really doing anything about. And though Roger Goodell's not blinking, it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility that the pandemic will disrupt the upcoming year. Set your expectations accordingly.
On that note, on Tuesday Cleveland Browns player and NFLPA president J.C. Tretter penned a letter in which he called out the league for not taking player safety more seriously. In addition to worries about the virus, Tretter’s concerns also include fears that extended time away from the game will lead to more players suffering serious (non-virus-related) injuries. That full letter can be found here, but we also made our best effort to grab relevant excerpts.
"Our normal return date for training camp is quickly approaching and we are still far from back to 'normal.' Our main concern is player safety, both in regard to preventing the virus’ transmission as well as preventing injuries after an extended and historically unique layoff," Tretter wrote. "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. That pervasive thought process will stop this season in its tracks"
Tretter goes on to recount all the work NFL players have put in since March, and he argues that this will be in vain if the league “doesn’t think and act differently” in order to ensure that the full season gets played. This is when he brought up the fear that, in addition to potential illness, a prolonged break could also cause more muscles to strain and tendons to snap.
“We did our due diligence and reviewed the impact of returning to play football after an unusually long period away. For example, following the extended break after the 2011 lockout, injuries increased by 25%. Achilles injuries more than doubled and hamstring strains went up 44%,” he wrote.
Tretter went on to say that there had been disagreements between the players and league regarding the preseason, which he cited as an instance in which the NFL's brass isn’t adapting to the unique challenges presented by 2020. He contends that players don’t want the added injury risk that goes with the staging of these ultimately meaningless exhibition contests, but that the NFL countered that they’re necessary for player-evaluation purposes, and also to test out game protocols.
Note that about a week ago the NFL announced they'd be cutting the typical length of the preseason from four games down to two.
"We don’t want to merely return to work and have the season shut down before we even get started,” Tretter continued. “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. It has been clear for months that we need to find a way to fit football inside the world of coronavirus.”
Tretter’s tweet/message appeared to have gotten a co-sign from teammate (and, no offense to Tretter at all) all-around bigger name Odell Beckham Jr.
He also got what amounts to an endorsement from Packers All-Pro lineman David Bakhtiari:
Throw in more tweets backing him from Byron Jones, Randall Cobb, and maybe some other guys:
That said, Tretter's message does not appear to have been well received by crazed jump-into-the-mentions Twitter (though it should be noted that compliments on that site are few and far between) but his main goal here seems to be conducting a season without a stoppage, in addition to protecting against widespread injuries. That's basically what you'd expect from the players' leading rep.