NFLPA not happy with Tom Brady, Russell Wilson team workouts: ‘Not in the best interest of player safety’

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The NFL is planning on the 2020 season being played, despite a recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott and several members of the Houston Texans have tested positive for the coronavirus recently, but that hasn’t stopped other players from working out in public together. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has taken part in several workouts with teammates, as has Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. The NFL Players Association sent out an advisory in hopes players would stop holding workouts together to halt the possible spread of COVID-19.

Even after the advisory was sent out last weekend, Brady and other important Bucs players such as Rob Gronkowski and Chris Godwin got together at a local high school in Tampa to hold a practice session. While the NFLPA’s advisory was not necessarily a mandate, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith recently told USA TODAY Sports that Brady and others could hurt the NFL’s chances of finishing an entire season in 2020.

“Those practices are not in the best interest of player safety, they aren’t in the best interest of protecting our players heading into training camp and I don’t think they are in the best interest of us getting through an entire season. I certainly understand how competitive our players are and I get that, but at the same time we are in the process of trying to negotiate — we have to negotiate with the league about what happens to a player if they test positive during the season. Does that player go on injured reserve? Do they go on short-term IR? If you test positive for the virus after training camp, is that a work related injury? Are you covered under workers comp? What benefits are available to you if you have downstream injuries from contracting COVID-19? All of the things that players may want to do during the offseason have a direct impact on how well we can negotiate protections for them once the season starts. We sent out the guidance because we think that was in their best health and safety interest. Let’s just say that for some of the players who have practiced — we have made sure that they have heard the message.” 

Smith makes a great point about why the NFLPA is against these workouts. While they obviously want their players to stay healthy, there are much larger forces at work. The NFL and NFLPA are clearly still trying to outline specifics when it comes to this unprecedented season. What exactly will happen if a player tests positive during the season, and when can he return to action? How much is the NFL at fault if a player experiences severe complications from the coronavirus? Both sides are still trying to negotiate through these hypotheticals, and it would derail their progress if more players test positive as we head into training camp. 

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