NFL opt-out deadline set for 4 p.m. ET Thursday

The deadline for NFL players to opt out of the 2020 season will be Thursday at 4 p.m. ET, the league said in a letter to the NFL Players Association..

The NFLPA agreed to shorten the window between the finalizing of the agreement and the opt-out deadline (which was originally supposed to be seven days) in exchange for some concessions on the final language, sources said on Monday.

The league’s COVID-19 protocols, officially an amendment to the new collective bargaining agreement signed in March, were agreed to by players and team owners July 24, but it took until Monday night for attorneys for the two sides to finalize the formal language of the deal. The original agreement stipulated that the opt-out deadline for players would be seven days after the attorneys finished that work, but as the process dragged on, owners wanted the deadline to be set sooner than that.

The union agreed, sources said, because the new Aug. 5 deadline is still a couple of days later than the originally projected Aug. 3 deadline, but the union also got the owners to agree to a number of changes to the final language they feel are beneficial to the players. Changes include, among other things:

  • Better protection for players in the discipline process for “high-risk” behavior away from the facility. Per the agreement, players can be disciplined for engaging in activity that could increase the risk of spreading COVID-19, such as attending a concert or other indoor gathering with more than 15 people. Discipline in those cases would be decided by an arbitrator. The final agreement also includes a stipulation that front office employees and coaches can face discipline for similar behavior, one source said.

  • More favorable language governing the calculation of potential revenue shortfalls due to COVID-19 and how those are made up in future years. The union had wanted to spread salary cap reductions that resulted from lost 2020 revenue out over the life of the new CBA, which runs through 2030, while the owners wanted to take the hit in 2020 and 2021. The July 24 agreement stipulated that there would be no cap impact this year, that the 2021 cap could be no lower than $175 million per team, and that further shortfalls would be made up over the years 2022-24.

No major material changes were made to the July 24 terms, but sources said some of the arguments over the final language of the deal were conceded to players by the owners in return for agreeing to the shorter window between the finalizing of the deal and the opt-out deadline.

On Sunday, New England Patriots safety and longtime captain Devin McCourty reacted strongly to the notion that the league was moving up the opt-out deadline.

“I think it is an absolute joke that the NFL is changing the opt-out period, mainly because they don’t want to continue to see guys opt out. I’m sure they’re shocked about how many guys have opted out,” McCourty said in a video conference with Patriots reporters. “I think it’s terrible. I think it’s B.S. that the league has changed that date.”

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