AP sources: NFL owners offer opt-out guidelines for players

The Associated Press has learned that the NFL has offered opt-out guidelines to players who do not want to participate in the upcoming season because of the coronavirus

The NFL has offered opt-out guidelines to players who do not want to participate in the upcoming season because of the coronavirus, two people with knowledge of the offer told The Associated Press on Friday.

Players who decide they want to opt out have until Aug. 3 to do so, and they will receive a stipend from the owners, the people said on condition of anonymity because the offer has not been made public. The amount of the stipend has not been made available, but there are two categories: players who opt-out voluntarily and those who do so for medical reasons.

The players’ union negotiators have agreed to the plan, with the NFLPA executive committee voting unanimously in favor. But the 32 team player representatives must vote on it.

Should the plan be approved, it would eliminate one major obstacle to a full opening of training camps next week. Already, the sides have agreed to cancel all preseason games, as well as to a reduction in the number of roster spots in training camp from 90 to 80 — though teams will have until Aug. 16 to get down to 80.

The league also offered an extended acclimation period of 18 days for players, given that the coronavirus caused the cancellation of all offseason on-field activities at team facilities. Training camps are to open Tuesday, though the Texans and Chiefs, who meet in the season opener Sept. 10, have veterans scheduled to arrive this weekend for COVID-19 testing.

Economic issues remain a key talking point. Those discussions center on how to handle revenue losses that would result from games played without fans or even canceled games because of COVID-19. The league has proposed a minimum salary cap of $175 million for 2021; this season’s cap is $198.2 million.

Should the 2021 salary cap decrease — a very likely outcome — caps through 2024 would be adjusted to cover some of that dropoff. That way, the cap wouldn’t plummet too far.

The cap has increased exponentially since 2014, going up by $10 million or so annually.

Practice squads will be increased to 16 players if the league’s proposal is accepted by the union, The Washington Post reported Friday. Four such players could be protected weekly from being exposed to other teams.

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