NEW YORK (Reuters) - The NFL Players Association’s (NFLPA) Executive Director DeMaurice Smith on Sunday rebuked players participating in group workouts, saying they were not safe, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States.
The union’s chief medical officer had previously said that players should avoid practicing together but top players, including quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Tom Brady, posted images and videos on social media that showed them flouting the advisory and practicing with team mates last week.
“Those practices are not in the best interest of player safety,” NFLPA Executive Director Smith told USA Today’s SportsPulse program.
“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.”
The league has not explicitly banned private group workouts but Smith said they had the potential to complicate negotiations between the player group and the NFL, as the two parties chart a path forward in the COVID-19 era.
“We have to negotiate with the league about what happens to a player if they test positive during the season,” said Smith.
“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?
“All of the things that players may want to do during the off-season have a direct impact on how well we can negotiate protections for them once the season starts.”
The NFL has pushed forward with plans to kick off the regular season on Sept. 10 but last week was forced to postpone its Aug. 6 NFL Hall of Fame exhibition game, the curtain-raiser to the football season, by a year due to the new coronavirus.
Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris