NFL

NFL training camps set to open on time as league, players agree on virus protocols

NFL training camps are set to open after the league and the players' union reached agreement on several issues, including future salary cap mechanisms and how players can opt out of the upcoming season because of the coronavirus.

Sides already agreed to cancel all pre-season games, cut rosters to 80

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid watches a drill during 2019 training camp. 2020 camps are set to open on time after the NFL and its players agreed to COVID-19 health protocols on Friday. (Charlie Riedel/The Associated Press)

NFL training camps are set to open after the league and the players' union reached agreement on several issues, including future salary cap mechanisms and how players can opt out of the upcoming season because of the coronavirus.

The NFL Players Association's executive committee and 32 player representatives approved the offers Friday.

Players who decide they want to opt out have until Aug. 3 to do so, and they will receive a stipend from the owners. The amount of the stipend will be $350,000 US for medical opt outs and $150,000 for voluntary opt outs, two people with knowledge of the decisions told The Associated Press. The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the stipend amount was not made public.

That agreement eliminated one major obstacle to a full opening of training camps next week. Already, the sides had agreed to cancel all preseason games, as well as to a reduction in the number of roster spots in training camp from 90 to 80 — though teams will have until Aug. 16 to get down to 80.

The NFLPA said in a statement on Twitter that its board of representatives adopted the proposed amendments to the CBA by a vote of 29-3.

The league also offered an extended acclimation period of 18 days for players, given that the coronavirus caused the cancellation of all off-season on-field activities at team facilities. Training camps are to open Tuesday, though the Texans and Chiefs, who meet in the season opener Sept. 10, have veterans scheduled to arrive this weekend for COVID-19 testing.

"We have worked collaboratively to develop a comprehensive set of protocols designed to minimize risk for fans, players, and club and league personnel," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "These plans have been guided by the medical directors of the NFL and the NFLPA and have been reviewed and endorsed by independent medical and public health experts, including the CDC, and many state and local public health officials."

Many economic issues were settled, including how to handle revenue losses that would result from games played without fans or even cancelled games because of COVID-19. The league has proposed a minimum salary cap of $175 million for 2021; this season's cap is $198.2 million.

Should the 2021 salary cap decrease — a very likely outcome — caps through 2024 would be adjusted to cover some of that drop-off. That way, the cap wouldn't plummet too far.

The cap has increased exponentially since 2014, going up by $10 million or so annually.

Players will also get a prorated salary for games played if any games are cancelled this season.

Practice squads will be increased to 16 players. Four such players could be protected weekly from being exposed to other teams. Actual practices in camps won't begin for about three weeks.

"The season will undoubtedly present new and additional challenges," Goodell said, "but we are committed to playing a safe and complete 2020 season, culminating with the Super Bowl."

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