Even though the NFL is moving ahead as if the 2020 season will start on time, the league and the players union are ironing out the details.
After the NFL proposed to shorten the preseason from four games to two, the NFLPA has reportedly voted to eliminate the exhibition games altogether, according to the NFL Network’s Mike Garafalo.
“The players I’m told are expressing a number of concerns on this call,” Garafolo said. “Not the least of which, is if there’s so much concern about this virus right now, why are we returning to work, period? And I was told that one of the medical experts said that is something you’re going to have to decide on an individual basis. Basically, are some players going to opt out based on risk factors and just how they’re feeling about themselves and their family? So that is something to watch going forward.”
The quote from Garafalo doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence for me that the 2020 season will go on as planned. We have seen some NBA players elect not to join their teams in Orlando, so I can definitely see some NFL players doing the same thing, if they’re given the choice. With positive cases continuing to rise across the country, it’s hard to see how the NFL can pull this off without a hitch.
Sure, completely eliminating the preseason will help protect the players from COVID-19 before Week 1, but it seems like it is just a bandaid solution. It will buy the league some more time, but ultimately does nothing to help guarantee the 2020 regular season will go on as planned.
On the field, rookies, and fringe players who are trying to catch on with a squad will be the most impacted by not having any preseason games. The San Francisco 49ers have big plans for first-year pros Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk, whose development will be slowed by the changes due to the pandemic. Still, the Niners have the benefit of being a deep squad with a lot of returning players, so they should be able to minimize the effects of not having a preseason.
This whole situation remains very fluid. We are still about two months away from Week 1, so expect a lot of changes between now and Week 1. The longer the cases continue to rise around the country, the less optimistic I am that the 2020 NFL season will start on time.