The reason why NFL preseason games have been removed from the 2020 schedule seems obvious. If the league tries to start the season during a global pandemic, why risk the health and safety of players, coaches and all team / league personnel for matches that don’t count?
Indeed, that’s part of the reason the NFL Players Association pushed the league to ditch preseason games in 2020, but it goes a little deeper. In the wise words of the great Allen Iverson, we are talking about practice.
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Now that the NFL-NFLPA Joint Medical Commission had proposed a 48-day training camp, including a 21-day acclimatization period (strength and conditioning), the NFLPA urged the league to implement that schedule. All offseason programs for 2020 have been completely virtual and although players have trained individually, the idea is that they will need extra time this year to get into ideal football form and reduce the risk of injury.
But the league, although it had already shortened the preseason schedule from four weeks to two, had pushed for a few preseason games for each team so it could keep that revenue. With two preseason games scheduled, the 48-day training camp and 21-day acclimatization period would not have been possible unless the league had pushed back the start of the regular season.
That’s part of the reason a huge group of high profile players went to social media on July 19 and publicly criticized the NFL’s resistance, despite the joint medical committee’s suggestion.
We all want to play this season, but we have to stay safe to really have a season! It’s time for the @NFL to perform and do their part so that we players can work safely and play the game we love! #WeWantToPlay
– Carson Wentz (@cj_wentz) July 19, 2020
– Todd Gurley II (@ TG3II) July 19, 2020
We need football! We need sports! We need hope! The NFL’s reluctance to follow recommendations from their own medical experts will prevent that. If the NFL doesn’t help keep players healthy, there will be no football in 2020. It’s that simple. Do it @NFL
– Drew Brees (@drewbrees) July 19, 2020
The NFL ignored the safety recommendations of the experts they hired. We all love this game and want to compete with our brothers. The NFL must provide a safe working environment for this.#WeWantToPlay
– Richard Sherman (@ RSherman_25) July 19, 2020
This is not to say that preseason NFL games have no value to players. With training classes for 90 men (reduced to 80 in 2020) that were eventually reduced to 53 for the regular season, approximately 1,200 players are cut each year during the preseason. Those boys in 2020 will not get the general rehearsal options to prove that they are worthy of a last selection place.
Some have argued that at least one game in the 2020 preseason would have also given players and coaches the opportunity to experience the health and safety protocols implemented this season during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the creepy lack of fans in the stadium. But as an NFL team owner told NFL Media, they “to manage. “
Apparently in response to that public pressure from the players, the NFL reportedly went back to the negotiating table with a one-week (week 3) preseason schedule. Then, after an NFL-NFLPA call to discuss outstanding health and safety issues, the NFL “offered” the players zero preseason games. NFLPA spokesman George Atallah later clarified what happened.
“(The) NFL did not offer or give us preseason games,” Atallah tweeted Monday night. “They had the right to place it under the CBA or not.”
The NFLPA accepted the Zero Play proposal and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on July 27 confirmed there would be no preseason games in 2020.
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NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said during a conference call with the media, “To participate in two games where players would fly across the country and then interact with each other to work for doing the season does not increase the chance that the season will start and end on time. “
That seems to be why the NFL agreed to cancel preseason games in 2020. Of course, both the league and the players will get a money hit without friendly games, but not nearly as big a blow that would come from a compromised regular season.
The NFL has made it clear for months that its primary goal is to start and end the regular season and finish the playoffs on time, and therefore keep that revenue. As Smith noted, preseason games can’t help in that regard. They can only hurt.