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NFL & COVID-19: Developing stories

With the NFL season approaching and Covid-19 still lurking, we take a look at some recent developments in the NFL.

Practically every part of the forthcoming season will be new, with the last week’s activities already beginning. Players tend to opt-out at a steady pace of the season, particularly in New England, with long-time captain Devin McCourty suggesting that more could arrive.

 

NFL, NFLPA close to signing a new deal

The NFL may be one step closer to coming back soon. The NFL and NFLPA are close to signing their new collective bargaining agreement to play in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ian Rapoport.

Earlier in March, the two parties agreed on a new CBA but came back to the table to revisit after the United States struck hard with the global pandemic.

This news comes after leaders of NFLPA players voted Friday 29-3 in favor of the reforms.

The new contract requires teams to have 16-man practice rosters, no preseason games for 2020, and high-risk and optional opt-outs. High-risk players who opt out will get a $350,000 stipend, according to Tom Pelissero. Voluntary opt-outs would get a $150,000 salary bonus for non-high-risk teams. In any case, contracts will toll, meaning that they will be regarded as a standard year of the service period.

The training camp will now have a 20-day ramp-up phase, with no more than 14 padded sessions, according to Ian Rapoport.

Additionally, Rapoport notes that by Aug. 16, rosters will have to be cut down to 80 players, and no more than 80 people will be allowed in team buildings at once.

“The NFL clubs and the NFL Players Association approved an agreement that broadly resolves all outstanding issues relating to the opening of training camps and starts of the 2020 season,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Training camps will begin as scheduled.

“We have worked collaboratively to develop a comprehensive set of protocols designed to minimize risk for fans, players, and club and league personnel. These plans have been guided by the medical directors of the NFL and the NFLPA and have been reviewed and endorsed by independent medical and public health experts, including the CDC, and many state and local public health officials.

“The season will undoubtedly present new and additional challenges, but we are committed to playing a safe and complete 2020 season, culminating with the Super Bowl.”

 

The decline in Patriots’ defense

Which team was more influenced by players dropping out of the season than the Patriots who missed three core starters and two of the team’s four most significant salary figures.?

Hightower is the hardest to substitute. The safety is Belichick’s on-the-field coach, a man whose experience, durability, and play-force have been key to the 2019 Patriots defense becoming the strongest team since its run of 2001-04. The Football Outsiders Almanac put together a convincing argument that this summer, thanks to senior exits, New England sacrificed more interest on defense than any team in two decades, and that was before Hightower, and Safety Patrick Chung dropped out.

Chung ‘s absence isn’t as worrying. His play has been deteriorating, and the Patriots, including second-round picker Kyle Dugger, have depth at his place. The defense in New England is one of the best in football, but the front seven is a smorgasbord of skilled talent and position players that can test the willingness of Belichick to generate a pass rush. Many expect the Patriots many maintain a top-five team is unlikely and would place additional pressure on Cam Newton to move to Foxborough quickly.

 

The Broncos’ offensive line’s been hit

Following years of falling out in his attempts to repair his O-line, Broncos GM John Elway was approaching training with the best-looking squad he’s ever seen, complementing last year’s talented rookie center, Dalton Risner, with free-agent OG Graham Glasgow and third-round C Lloyd Cushenberry. Although the interior of the team still looks rock solid, a typical blow is a declaration by right tackle Ja’Wuan James Monday that he is opting out.

James was given a complete guaranteed $27 million last summer to secure one of the NFL’s worst revolving doors. He could only play three games and had some dispute with the management over his safety, so now the Broncos are back to square one with a bad pair of tackles that involve Garett Bolle’s first-round selection so penalty machine for 2017.

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