Cover 9@9: A primer on the NFL, NFLPA training camp plans

Falcons' offensive line blocks for Matt Ryan during team practice Monday, July 29, 2019, in Flowery Branch.
Falcons' offensive line blocks for Matt Ryan during team practice Monday, July 29, 2019, in Flowery Branch.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Welcome to the Cover 9@9 blog — our weekly list of nine things that you need to know about the Atlanta Falcons.

1. The no-spin zone. As the NFL and NFLPA are moving closer to full agreement on health and safety issues, coronavirus pandemic hot spots remain a major concern.

Nine of the 32 teams (28.1%) are located in Texas, Arizona, California, Texas and Georgia, where the numbers are spiking, according to the NFLPA numbers on their website.

“That’s a major concern with stuff that’s going on in Houston as well, Miami,” NFLPA president JC Tretter said. “How safe is that? Like (NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith) said, our job is to hold the NFL accountable and have them answer those questions. Those are the questions we want answers are how safe is it to start back up a football season at this moment with locations in this country where teams are located going through giant spikes of this virus.”

After an orchestrated Twitter campaign Sunday, the NFL started to come up with some answers. The players are going to get more testing and may not have to play any exhibition games, while getting a longer time to get acclimated to football condition.

ExploreNFL will not play exhibition games

After the players are tested, they will likely have to restrict the circle of friends and family.

“I think this is all of us in this together,” Tretter said. “So, about everyone doing the right thing, everybody in that community, everybody in that facility has to do the right thing: the coaches, the staff, the players. We all have a responsibility to keep each other safe knowing wrong decisions at the facility, wrong decisions in the community outside the facility have direct impacts on the players next to you, the staff member next to you, and what their family member might catch as well coming home from that facility.”

The NFL model is not a bubble like the NBA in Orlando, Fla.

“So, it’s not just about players’ decisions as well,” Tretter said. “We’ve had coaches come forward and talk about protocols being too much to ask, coaches come forward and saying they think everybody is going to get sick and we’ll just see how sick they get. Those attitudes can’t happen because this is all of us in this together.”

The Falcons are going through testing for the rookies. The quarterbacks and injured veterans can report Thursday. The remaining veterans can report on Tuesday.

“No one can just wish this away or just expect this to go away,” Tretter said. “There are consequences for getting sick. There are consequences players’ families have to face, and that’s my job as representative of the players is to try to provide as safe a workplace as possible.”

2. Players will test positive. It will be interesting to see how the NFL handles positive tests.

The NFLPA noted that 72 players have tested positive for COVID-19 over the offseason. The numbers were up to 95, with teams starting to test rookies on Tuesday evening. The union later revised that number to 59.

My story is an example of that,” Rams tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “We had a family member that simply went to lunch with a friend and, innocent as it can be, and a couple days later we’re traveling all together and she started to not feel well and ended up deciding to go get a test.

“Next thing we know, she had it. A couple days later, my wife and I had it. A couple days after that, our kids had it. So, we were about seven for seven at that point. And unfortunately we had just visited my wife’s family and we were traveling with them as well and her mom and dad both got it.”

The Whitworth’s recovered, but it stressed the older members of the family.

“It seems to be much tougher, and it was on them,” Whitworth said. “And unfortunately her dad got to a state where he had to be hospitalized. Luckily for us, such blessings we got him home about four or five days ago. He’s home with us now and we’re very blessed to have him and him be okay.”

Whitworth has a testimony for his team and the rest of the NFLPA membership.

“It was definitely a scary thing and (we) realized how contagious this really is,” Whitworth said. “It can spread like wildfire. For us, it’s affected us personally. It’s scary.”

3. Infectious disease plans. The NFLPA updated the infectious disease emergency response (IDER) plans submitted by the 32 NFL teams. According to their website, only eight teams have IDER plans approved by the union, while 24 are under review.

The NFLPA must approve the team’s IDER plan before more than 20 players are allowed in the team facility. NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills and joint infectious disease experts have approved the 32 plans.

4. Hot spots: The Falcons are in the 11th most infected area of the 32 NFL teams, according to the statistics over the past 14 days per 100,000 of the population with 24.62.

Miami is the team in the most infected area with 74.39 per 100,000 over the past 14 days.

5. Teams could lose $70 million each. The NFL and the NFLPA still must iron out some financial issues.

The revenues will drop this season and how to adjust the future salary cap is the key issue.

The NFL wants to spread the losses out over a shorter period of time, while the union prefers a longer period of time to lessen the blow for the current players.

The CBA obligates us to negotiate in good faith over downturns in revenue that will impact the salary cap for the following year,” Smith said. “So, to bring it up in a rather overly simplistic way, salary cap is this year what the salary cap is this year because it was based on a projection from last year’s revenue.

“Next year’s salary cap will be projected on revenue this year if nothing happens, if the CBA operates the way the CBA is going to operate. So, while people can have a lot of opinions about the CBA, to make it simple, if there is a dramatic decrease in revenue for this year, and some estimates are that it could be $70 million per club as the impact on player cost.”

Teams will not want to take the $70 million hit over one season.

“That would mean a number of players could be cut,” Smith said. “A lot of players who have salaries that would push a team above that salary cap would be forced to renegotiate, drastically renegotiate, their contracts or they would be cut.”

6. Safety first. As far as Tretter is concerned, they can divide up the money later.

“The priority is still on the health and safety issues that we face,” Tretter said. “The economics will be taken care of, but we can’t get into the economics until we make sure that our players will be protected this year, safety protocols are setup.”

7. The opt out rules. The NFL and NFLPA must iron out the opt-out rules.

Will players be allowed opt out of this season for medical reasons and collect their salaries?

Are there some things that are incredibly important to our players about being able to opt out? Yes,” Smith said. “We don’t want players unfairly punished by it in the same way that we wouldn’t want our players unfairly punished or designated by going on an (injured reserve) because of testing positive.”

But if a player has a certain body mass index, asthma or sleep apnea or if they live with elderly family member, how would an opt out work for them. Or someone with a child with a autoimmune deficiency.

“If that was your son, what options would you want him or her to have as they made a decision engaging in this?,” Smith said. “That’s how we look at this. And, so, I know it sounds a little, you know, utterly altruistic. It is. That’s how we try to make these decisions.”

Smith appears to be advocating on a case-by-case review of the player’s reason for opting out.

8. More on the hot spots. The NFLPA had a conference call Tuesday evening with the player reps and all players were invited. Thursday and Tuesday will interesting to see how many veterans report.

“One of the reasons that we became increasingly alarmed about Houston and some of these other hot spots is the impact on available hospital beds and available ICU beds,” Smith said.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

NFLPA representatives JC Tretter (Browns) and director DeMaurice Smith discuss the NFL's plans to start season amid pandemic.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

9. Depth chart. Here’s the projected depth chart for training camp:

OFFENSE

WR 11 Julio Jones, 13 Christian Blake, 19 Devin Gray, 80 Laquon Treadwell, Chris Rowland, Juwan Green

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 75 John Wetzel, Hunter Atkinson

LG 61 Matt Hennessy, 73 Matt Gono, 77 James Carpenter, 64 Sean Harlow

C 51 Alex Mack, 61 Matt Hennessy, 64 Sean Harlow, Austin Capps

RG 63 Chris Lindstrom, 68 Jamon Brown, 65 Justin McCray, Justin Gooseberry

RT 76 Kaleb McGary, 65 Justin McCray, 69 Scottie Dill, Evin Ksiezarczyk

TE 81 Hayden Hurst, 86 Khari Lee, 87 Jaeden Graham, 85 Carson Meier, Jared Pinkney, Caleb Repp

WR 18 Calvin Ridley, 83 Russell Gage, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus, 15 Brandon Powell, Jalen McCleskey

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub, 6 Kurt Benkert, 16 Danny Etling

RB 21 Todd Gurley, 25 Ito Smith, 30 Qadree Ollison, 23 Brian Hill, 42 Craig Reynolds

FB 40 Keith Smith, Mikey Daniel

DEFENSE

DE 56 Dante Fowler, 53 Austin Larkin, 71 Bryson Young

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 50 John Cominsky, Hinwa Allieu

DT 96 Tyeler Davison, 90 Marlon Davidson, 94 Deadrin Senat, Sailosi Latu

DE 93 Allen Bailey, 55 Steven Means, 53 Austin Larkin

DE 98 Takk McKinley, 92 Charles Harris, 91 Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Austin Edwards

LB 54 Foyesade Oluokun, 36 Deone Bucannon, 46 Edmond Robinson, 52 Ahmad Thomas, Jordan Williams

LB 45 Deion Jones, 59 LaRoy Reynolds, 43 Mykal Walker, Ray Wilborn

RCB 26 Isaiah Oliver, 29 Josh Hawkins, 39 C.J. Reavis, Delrick Abrams, 44 Tyler Hall

LCB 24 A.J. Terrell, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson, 28 Jordan Miller, Rojesterman Farris

NCB 20 Kendall Sheffield, 34 Chris Cooper

SS 37 Ricardo Allen, 22 Keanu Neal, 32 Jaylinn Hawkins, 35 Jamal Carter

FS 27 Damontae Kazee, 37 Ricardo Allen, 41 Sharrod Neasman

SPECIALISTS

K 7 Younghoe Koo

KO 7 Younghoe Koo

P 9 Ryan Allen, 4 Sterling Hofrichter

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 9 Ryan Allen

KOR 15 Brandon Powell, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus

PR 15 Brandon Powell, 17 Olamide Zaccheaus

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