As concern grows about the NFL’s ability to stage a full and on-time season, the NFL Players Association is questioning the viability of opening teams’ training camps later this month in areas of the country experiencing explosive growth in the number of novel coronavirus cases.

“We have one question that encapsulates it all: Does it make sense for the NFL to open up training camps in ‘hot spot’ cities right now?” a person familiar with the NFLPA’s views said Tuesday.

Most NFL teams are scheduled to report to training camps July 28. The league has considered a variety of coronavirus-related contingencies, but consistently has said it is planning to stage a full season beginning as scheduled Sept. 10, with teams playing games in their own stadiums, hopefully in front of some fans.

The NFL has sent detailed health protocols to teams but continues to negotiate some key details of its plan with the NFLPA, including the frequency by which players will be tested for the virus.

The ongoing deliberations between the NFL and its players’ union come while other professional sports are taking steps to resume, but are experiencing issues related to testing and treatment of positive cases. Some college football conferences have announced plans to not play this fall, while others have pared schedules to conference-only games or continue to deliberate. The decisions being made by the college and pro sports leagues come with caseloads rising in many states.

“We all want to play,” a high-ranking official with one NFL team said. “We all want to make this work. But there are some big issues in some places of the country. That can’t be ignored.”

A person familiar with the NFL’s planning said this week: “Just look at what’s going on in our country. We are undisciplined as a country.”

That person, who like others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations, said that the league was not currently giving consideration to postponing training camps or the season, adding that the NFL continues to do its best to remain optimistic that its protocols will allow camps and the season to take place. But the developments with some college football conferences “don’t bode well,” that person said, adding that public health developments and state-by-state policies set by governors will be telling.

“The governors are going to determine what we can and can’t do,” the person with knowledge of the league’s inner workings said.

The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to many aspects of the health protocols by which teams will operate during training camps and the season, but the two sides continue to negotiate over a series of unresolved issues. These include testing frequency, the length of the preseason, the structure of training camps and the rules by which players will be able to opt out of playing this season.

“As we have stated since the pandemic began, our primary focus is on the health and safety of the public, the players and team personnel,” the NFL said in a written statement. “We continue to work with the NFL Players Association and our joint medical advisers to mitigate the health risk to everyone associated with the NFL. We are developing a comprehensive testing program and have rigorous protocols that call for a shared responsibility from everyone inside our football ecosystem. This is based on the collective guidance of public health officials, including the White House task force, the CDC, infectious-disease experts, and other sports leagues. We will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season.”

The league made plans to reduce the preseason from four to two games per team, but the NFLPA is seeking to eliminate the preseason entirely. The league also wants to mandate that players wear face shields on their helmets to help guard against on-field transmission of the virus, while the union wants to advise players to test out wearing the shields during training camps and then reevaluate.

Some of the states with surging caseloads — including Florida, Arizona, Texas and Louisiana — are homes to NFL teams. California, with three NFL franchises, just reimposed some coronavirus-related restrictions. Many NFL players are expressing concerns publicly.

“If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy,” New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder wrote on Twitter, “there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple.”

Houston Texans safety Justin Reid publicly called on the league to delay the start of training camps and the season. Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle Donovan Smith, whose first child is due to be born in the coming weeks, said in an Instagram post that “risking my health, as well as my family’s health, does not seem like a risk worth taking” amid the pandemic.

Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter, the NFLPA’s president, wrote recently that the league must adapt better or risk jeopardizing the season.

“Every decision this year that prioritizes normalcy over innovation, custom over science or even football over health, significantly reduces our chances of completing the full season,” Tretter wrote in an essay posted to the union’s website. “We don’t want to merely return to work and have the season shut down before we even get started.”

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN last month that “football may not happen this year” unless players are isolated in a “bubble” environment. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said then he was “realistic” but remained “optimistic” that the league could begin its season on time and play it to completion.

The NFL’s contingency-planning has included consideration of a delayed or shortened season, games being played in empty or partially filled stadiums, and games being relocated or rescheduled if needed, according to people familiar with the league’s planning. There’s no indication that the NFL has given serious consideration to having all teams gather to play in a bubble environment at a single site, as the NBA is doing in Orlando, or at a small number of hub cities, as the NHL is doing in Canada.

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