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NFL players say virus attitudes must change for safe season

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Los Angeles (AFP)

The NFL's players union said Friday attitudes towards coronavirus health protocols must change for pre-season training camps to be held safely.

In a conference call with reporters, the NFL Players Association said the union had so far failed to reach agreement with the National Football League over preparations for the upcoming season.

The NFL has maintained that training camps will open as scheduled, meaning that some clubs will start reporting for duty as early as next week.

However NFLPA president J.C. Tretter said players were far from happy with the attitude of some coaches towards COVID-19 as teams prepare to return to camp.

"We've had coaches say the protocols are too much to ask, coaches come forward saying, 'Everyone's going to get sick, so we might as well all get sick together,'" said Tretter. "Those attitudes can't happen. There are consequences to getting sick."

Tretter, a center for the Cleveland Browns, noted that his position requires him to go virtually face-to-face with an opponent at the line of scrimmage before the offensive and defensive lines crash together.

- risk mitigation -

"At this time more than any, I have a very dangerous job," Tretter said.

"This is going to be a battle of risk mitigation and providing opportunities for guys to make safe decisions."

The NFLPA on Thursday spoke to doctors with teams located in areas of the US where coronavirus cases are skyrocketing, including Arizona, Miami, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.

Union executive director DeMaurice Smith said the physicians maintained that training camps could open safely.

"The doctors last night said, with a couple of reservations, that it was safe to open training camp," Smith said.

"They provided their medical reasons. The league has made the decision that they want to start training camp on time. The role of the union is to hold them accountable on how to make sure it's safe."

The NFLPA and NFL remain split however on the issue of testing.

The union wants players tested daily; the NFL is planning to test players every other day.

"We believe daily testing is part of how to maximize our chances of finishing the season," Smith said.

The union also wants the league to cancel all preseason games. The league has already slashed the number of preseason games in half to two, but players want the games scrapped altogether.

"To engage in two games where players would be flying all over the country and then engaging with each other to work, and to do that prior to the season, doesn't increase the likelihood of starting and finishing the season on time," Smith said.

The NFL reiterated on Friday that it expects the league to start on time following a virtual owners meeting.

"We will continue to implement the health and safety protocols developed jointly with the NFLPA, and based on the advice of leading medical experts, including review by the CDC," the league said.

"We will address additional issues in a cooperative way. All decisions will be made in an effort to put us in position to play a full regular season and postseason culminating with the Super Bowl which is the shared goal of the clubs and the players."

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