The NFL is scheduled to start training camp in two months, and the regular season in a little over three months. The league has operated under the assumption the season will start on time, but plenty of questions remain. While league officials have offered confidence, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has been more conservative in his approach.
Smith made an appearance on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel with MLBPA executive director Tony Clark and NBPA executive Michele Roberts to discuss the state of their three sports. Gumbel asked each about the likelihood of their sport returning in 2020, on a scale of 1-to-10.
Clark offered up grades rather than numbers, but it effectively was in the 8 1⁄2 to 9 range. He said he remains optimistic they’ll play, but this also came before MLB owners proposed a sizable wage reduction for the players. The league has been pushing for an early July start, and reportedly would need a deal done by the first week of June for that to happen. Given the word that players are unhappy with the owners’ economics proposal, I’d be curious where he stands now.
Roberts said she was at an 8 last week, but is down to a 6. She said she’s heard “some recent concerns expressed by players now that babies, children have been infected.” She said there are some heightened concerns based on those conversations. Owners have a Board of Governors meeting this Friday, which should offer more insight into next steps. The league is in talks with Walt Disney World about hosting a return at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. Mid-to-late July is the target.
Smith went last and said he’d say six or seven if we’re grading this on a curve. He acknowledged the union will be tracking what happens in basketball and baseball since they will be making their decisions first.
Football has the benefit of not needing to make final decisions for some time now. There is talk of getting players back for minicamps in late June, but even if that does not work out, they’ve got time until training camp. If there are delays heading into camp, players would happily axe preseason games, and the schedule is built so that they league could start a little later and still get in the matchups they need. It’s still a difficult decision process, but the NFL has an advantage among those three sports.