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NFLPA exec: No way to say if camp will open on time

DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said Tuesday that it is impossible to say right now if training camps will be able to open on time later this summer.

Smith said there are many issues to be sorted through about what conditions would have to be in place for a camp to operate, including the varying impact of the coronavirus pandemic on different regions of the country.

"I think that's an impossible question to answer at this time because of the fact that this virus and how it's impacting our community emerges and changes almost daily," Smith said. "And there are literally a myriad of factors that would have to be considered in order to answer the question of when and under what circumstances could a large group, a large attendance of physical practice could occur."

The players union has formed its own task force, which includes infectious disease experts, to help it navigate the changes the pandemic has forced on NFL players. The first call with the task force came just a few days after the collective bargaining agreement was ratified in March.

Among the immediate priorities, Smith said, was restricting player travel. That, Smith said, is part of why the union did not want the start of the league year pushed back for two weeks. In addition to believing that the public health situation would not improve in that span, Smith was concerned that teams would want players to fly around the country during that two-week period for visits before travel restrictions went into effect.

The union and the league announced Monday an agreement for a virtual offseason program, which can start as early as April 20 for teams with new coaches. If team facilities remain closed throughout the offseason, the virtual program will take the place of all classroom sessions and workouts, including minicamps.

The NFL has said it expects to start the season on time in September and to play a full 16-game regular season.

But it remains unknown if training camps, which typically begin late in July, could open as scheduled.

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, has said that the availability of widespread, rapid testing would be a key component of any plan to resume team sports.

Smith called the ethical questions and privacy concerns attached to the possibility of the league testing players for coronavirus or antibodies "substantial."

And he said one of the most profound ethical questions is how the NFL and the union would address the possibility that some players might be reluctant to participate because of safety concerns even if football is allowed to resume.

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