Commentary: Holdouts, grievances all possible with NFL training camps just around the corner

We’ve seen some training camp holdouts in the past. But this year’s holdout situation could blow everything out of the water – as in, a lot of players not showing up when camp begins.

It was difficult to miss the onslaught of tweets from players throughout the league, including a number of Seahawks.

From Russell Wilson: “I am concerned. My wife is pregnant. NFL Training Camp is about to start. And there’s still no clear plan on player health and family safety. We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones.” Hashtag “We Want To Play.”

It was a message that continued from D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Bobby Wagner, Duane Brown and Bruce Irvin.

And with Texans and Chiefs rookies expected to report Monday, J.J. Watt provided a list of what he said the players know at this point in time:

  1. That the NFL can mandate that players show up to training camp regardless if any agreement on health and safety protocols has been reached between the league and the players association.
  2. That players have not been granted the full and proper training camp acclimation period necessary as recommended by the medical and training staffs.
  3. There’s still no word on the frequency of testing or whether there will be preseason games.
  4. No word on how positive COVID-19 tests will be handled in regard to others in close contact.
  5. No agreement on a fair opt-out clause for those at higher risk.
  6. The players can be fined for not showing up on time.

For the Seahawks and all the other teams in the league, reporting day is this Tuesday for rookies, this Thursday for quarterbacks and injured players and July 28th for everyone else.

This is essentially a continuation of the reality check we warned everyone about last week – with little or no resolution after a week of talks between the two sides.  

Frankly, I agree with the players that it’s unfair to show up to training camp without an agreement on health and safety protocols. But I also remind everyone that the players are saying that the league is ignoring a 21-day acclimation period that was recommended by the joint committee when the league originally proposed an early report date to Training Camp – and the players union said no.

What we’re left with is an ugly, very public grievance that doesn’t have an end in sight – and one that we could see play-out in a combination of a couple ways the next few weeks if there’s no formal agreement by then.

First, the players union immediately filing a grievance on whether the league is providing a safe workplace. Second, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a number of camps starting without some star players – essentially a holdout of sorts until these issues are ironed out. You think it wasn’t pretty when Earl Thomas didn’t show up to camp a couple years ago? What would happen if Seattle’s team leaders – and team leaders throughout the league – put their feet down and waited things out too?

And they’re not doing so because of money. We haven’t even discussed the economic issues tonight. They’d be doing so out of an abundance of caution over their own health – and that of their families as well.

In the end, I’m most disappointed that the league and players union have had months to sort through potential issues and find common ground. They watched an unpleasant situation publicly play out with Major League Baseball and have seen how other leagues have made it work too. No, the pandemic wasn’t as bad as it is now, but that’s what contingency is all about.

When I say to the league and players to “figure things out,” I don’t do it without having concern for everyone’s well-being. That’s Priority Number One.

But I also shake my head about how we got here – how we’re still here – and how there doesn’t seem to be a resolution in the offing anytime soon.