NFL players use Twitter blitz to voice concerns over COVID-19 safety

NFL players launched a coordinated Twitter blitz Sunday calling for the league to address their health and safety concerns before the start of training camp.

At around noon ET, star players including Drew Brees, J.J. Watt, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson all posted similar messages with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay.

“What you are seeing today is our guys standing up for each other and for the work their union leadership has done to keep everyone as safe as possible,” NFL Players Association president J.C. Tretter posted on Twitter. “The NFL needs to listen to our union and adopt the experts’ recommendations.”

In a memo sent to teams on Saturday, the league said camps will open as scheduled. Rookies are to report on Tuesday, quarterbacks and injured players are to report two days later and all other players are to report on July 28.

Rookies for the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans are scheduled to report on Monday, as those clubs kick off the NFL season on Sept. 10, ahead of all other teams.

Responding Sunday, players listed several concerns and questions they want to see addressed before potentially jeopardizing their health during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We still have not been granted the full and proper training camp acclimation period necessary as recommended by the medical and training staffs,” wrote Watt, the All-Pro defensive end for the Texans.

Other unresolved issues include testing frequency, an opt-out clause for players (or family members) who are at a higher risk, and the threat of fines for players who do not show up on time.

“I am concerned. My wife is pregnant. @NFL Training camp is about to start… And there’s still No Clear Plan on Player Health & Family Safety. We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones,” tweeted Wilson.

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and President JC Tretter addressed the union’s concerns in a 90-minute videoconference call with reporters on Friday.

They want players tested daily for the virus. A joint committee of doctors, trainers and strength coaches formed by the NFL and NFLPA recommended testing every other day.

Other outstanding issues include number of preseason games. The league has planned to cut the exhibition schedule from four games to two while the union wants none.

Players also wanted a 45-day acclimation period to help avoid injuries. The league asked them to report early but the union declined. Questions remain on protections for players who want to opt out of playing. 

All 32 teams have sent the union their Infectious Disease Emergency Response that have been approved by joint infectious disease experts and NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills, according to a person familiar with the details. The person, who was speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because protocols haven’t been finalized, said the union has approved several and continues to review them.

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