JC Tretter keeps fighting for his players and warning the NFL there won’t be a full season unless the league changes its approach.
Tretter, the Browns center and president of the NFL Players Association, went after the league in his column posted Tuesday on the union website. He linked to it with a dramatic tweet.
“The NFLs unwillingness to follow the recommendations of its own experts will put this season and the safety of all players at risk,” he tweeted. “This year must look differently if we hope to play a full season and crown a Super Bowl Champion.”
Players across the league are scheduled to report to training camp in three weeks — Browns rookies, quarterbacks and injured players are due July 24 and the rest of the veterans July 28 — but the league and union haven’t agreed on return-to-work rules, including safety guidelines.
One of the biggest sticking points is the preseason. The league plans to cut the schedule from four to two games for all teams, but the union board last week unanimously recommended canceling the preseason.
Not only will teams be adjusting to rules and regulations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the NFLPA is concerned about preparing players for the season after the league’s offseason programs were held entirely virtually. Teams haven’t practiced since last season, coaches haven’t worked with players and the virus limited the training regimens of many individuals.
“Since March, we have had hours of return to work meetings, reviewed research and developed detailed protocols — all of which will be wasted if the NFL refuses to think and act differently when it comes to getting through a full season,” Tretter wrote in the column. “Players don’t just want to return to work; we want to stay at work.”
He cited studies of returning to play after long periods away, including after the 2011 lockout that wiped out the offseason. He wrote injuries increased by 25 percent after the lockout, Achilles injuries more than doubled and hamstring strains rose by 44 percent.
During the pandemic, the NFL and NFLPA formed a joint medical committee to develop protocols for a return. Tretter wrote the league acted on the recommendations by canceling joint practices and eliminating fans at training camps but won’t follow the recommendation of a 48-day training camp schedule, which would erase the preseason.
“The NFL is unwilling to prioritize player safety and believes that the virus will bend to football,” Tretter wrote.
He added the league is resistant to change and didn’t provide a medical reason for playing preseason games.
“The league did provide a football reason, though — to evaluate rosters,” Tretter wrote. “The NFL also stated that it was important to stage preseason games to check how our game protocols will work.
“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.”
The league pushed back on Tretter’s column with unnamed sources talking to national reporters.
The Washington Post reported the NFL believes Tretter’s column was “misleading” and it’s wrong to say the league isn’t working with the NFLPA onalth and safety issues or following the recommendations of the joint committee.