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Don’t Expect Any Preseason NFL Football Games This Year

Ross Everett
by in NFL on
  • The NFL and Players Association are trying to work out details for the 2020 training camp.
  • Most of the major points have already been worked out with the exception of revenue issues.
  • The latest expectation is that there will be no preseason games in 2020.

The NFL owners have agreed with the Players Association position that there will be no preseason games in 2020. The two sides are in the process of working out details in advance of training camp and this was one of the remaining areas of contention. At this point most of the major issues have been resolved though there is still work to be done on revenue losses due to the coronavirus pandemic and how to deal with the financial hit for both sides.

Since it has been the NFLPA’s position all along to play no preseason games there doesn’t look to be any reason they don’t go along with the owner’s new offer. The thinking is that by eliminating preseason games it allows more time in training camp to prepare for what will likely be an unprecedented regular season. The previous offer from the owners took the preseason schedule down to a single game in August but it appears that they’ve decided that holding out for one game isn’t worth the conflict. Under the new proposal teams will go straight from training camp into the regular season schedule.

In theory, the owners get a nice influx of revenue from preseason games that they don’t need to divvy out for player salaries. That’s not the case this year as preseason NFL games would have almost certainly had to be played without fans. There’s a couple of obvious upsides from eliminating preseason play. Teams and players won’t have to do any additional travel and it will allow them to stay in more of a ‘bubble’ environment until the start of the regular season. Furthermore, it will allow the league and players union more time to work out health and safety protocols in preparation for the ‘real’ games to come.

Yesterday, the players and owners reached agreement on coronavirus testing for at least the start of training camp. The plan calls for daily coronavirus testing for the first two weeks of training camp. After two weeks, the NFL and players association will reconvene and evaluate the situation. If positive tests fall below 5% for players at that point the testing will be reduced to once every other day. At that point, should positive tests exceed the 5% threshold daily testing will resume. In addition to the preseason game schedule the other development today was the announcement of smaller rosters for training camp–they’re expected to be set at 80 to start camp which is 10 fewer than the typical 90 man rosters. There is a strong probability that regular season practice squads will be expanded from 12 to 16 players.

Now that the minor issues are essentially dealt with the two sides need to work out the impact of the revenue shortfalls. Here’s how CBS Sports described the issues that remain and the position of each side:

With these major issues now either in the rearview mirror or about to be, the NFL and NFLPA still need to come to an agreement on the financial part of these negotiations. In its latest proposal, the NFL reportedly suggested each team to cut player costs by $40 million in salary cap and/or other benefits in 2020. The NFLPA, meanwhile, has held the stance of not wanting the economic ramifications of the pending revenue loss due to the pandemic to hit players all in one year. Instead, they had suggested a flat salary cap for 2021 and then smaller hits against the cap over the next decade (2022-2030). 

One obvious solution is a compromise that spreads the financial hit over several years though more in the range of two or three years and not the next decade.

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