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Pre-season off but many unknowns 50 days from NFL opener

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New York (AFP)

While the NFL and its players union have agreed to cancel the entire August pre-season slate, several issues remain before the league's scheduled season opener in 50 days.

The reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are scheduled to kick off against the visiting Houston Texans on September 10 to launch the 2020 NFL campaign, teams set to play without spectators or with reduced stadium capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The league acknowledged in a posting on its website Wednesday that it has agreed to the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) request to call off all pre-season exhibition contests, confirming multiple media reports Tuesday.

In addition to the COVID-19 concerns over what would be only warm-up contests, there was concern that players would not be in proper shape for such games given limited off-season workouts without a team structure and uncertainty as to how soon full-gear practices might begin.

The NFL and players union remain in talks about details for training camp, although a COVID-19 testing protocol has been agreed upon.

The NFLPA wants a longer build-up period for players to adjust to the physical demands of training camps while such issues as opt-out clauses and pay issues over COVID-19 remain up in the air.

NFL coaches must now make roster decisions without being able to see players in game situations against rivals.

The NFLPA said Tuesday that 59 NFL players have tested positive for COVID-19 at some stage during the pandemic. The union has signed off on eight NFL team infectious disease emergency response plans with 24 more from league clubs yet to be approved.

"Our union has been pushing for the strongest testing, tracing and treatment protocols to keep our players safe," the union said in a statement.

"The testing protocols we agreed to are one critical factor that will help us return to work safely and gives us the best chance to play and finish the season."

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