NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith isn’t happy to see NFL players continue to work out together despite a union advisory sent out last weekend saying they should stop doing so.
During an interview with USA Today, Smith was specifically asked about social media posts from workouts by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and said they aren’t acting “in the best interest of player safety.”
“They’re not 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,” Smith told USA Today.
On June 20, Dr. Thom Mayer, the NFLPA’s medical director, issued a statement advising players to avoid working out with teammates to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The statement was made after around 10 teams reported positive coronavirus tests for at least one player, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
Despite the advisory, Brady and several of his new Buccaneers teammates, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, continued to hold workouts at a Tampa, Florida, high school, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Smith also addressed ongoing talks between the league and union over how positive coronavirus cases among players will be handled from a roster and benefits perspective.
“I certainly understand how competitive our players are, and I get that,” Smith told USA Today. “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 interests. Let’s just say for some of the players who have practiced, we’ve made sure that they’ve heard the message.”
The NFL maintains that training camps will start on time late next month, with league executive vice president/general counsel Jeff Pash saying Thursday that “active discussions” are ongoing about what will happen after that point.
The Hall of Fame Game, the league’s annual preseason opener that was originally scheduled for Aug. 8, has already been canceled by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The NFL regular season is slated to begin Sept. 10.