After months of sitting on the sidelines, now it's the NFL that finds itself on the pandemic protocol clock.
And time is running out.
The NFL is still holding July 28 as the start date for club training camps as the league begins to ramp up operations for its 2020 regular season. But health, safety and economic issues remain unsettled with the National Football League Players Association, or NFLPA.
With no agreement, the NFLPA can interrupt the NFL's plans. Players can file a grievance to delay the start of training camps — some rookies are expected to return as soon as Monday — and use the reason of workplace conditions not being up to standards if Covid-19 protocols are still unsettled. The grievance is optional, but the NFLPA would seek to stop camps once a player files a complaint.
The NFL did not make an official available to comment on the matter.
The issues are similar to Major League Baseball's pandemic battle. On the economic front, NFL owners want reimbursement funds for the potential of lost revenue. With the likelihood of no fans at games, club owners sought a 35% escrow from players.
The NFLPA considers docking players off limits and instead issued its criteria for pay to a league that grosses $15 billion annually. According to people with knowledge of negotiations, the NFLPA is seeking $500,000 per player should the league start its regular season then have to cancel games due to Covid-19. Players also want the preseason canceled entirely, seeing no economic reason to play uncounted games. The NFL already canceled the two exhibition preseason contests due to the pandemic.
The individuals spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of negotiations.
NFLPA president J.C. Tretter wrote to union members in a public letter, where he addressed concerns about "player safety, both in regard to preventing the virus' transmission as well as preventing injuries" after extended downtime in the offseason. Tretter also said the NFLPA's board members voted against having preseason games this year.
"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. Players don't just want to return to work; we want to stay at work," Tretter wrote.
On Thursday, Houston Texans star J.J. Watt took to Twitter to list more players' concerns, including how Covid-19 results would impact future contracts.
The players union is also awaiting all 32 teams' Infectious Disease Emergency Response plans and daily testing commitments. The NFLPA is also seeking the league's policy on opening camps in Covid-19 hot spots such as Florida, California and Texas.
The U.S. reported 77,255 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday. It shattered a record single-day spike by nearly 10,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The NFL is scheduled to start its 2020 regular season on Sept. 10.