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Wary Of Other Leagues’ Battles, N.F.L. And Players Agree On Terms To Return Press "Enter" to skip to content

Wary of Other Leagues’ Battles, N.F.L. and Players Agree on Terms to Return

The N.F.L. and the N.F.L. Players Association have finalized the last key financial issues related to this season, paving the way for an on-time start to the regular season on Sept. 10.

In the deal reached late Friday after a vote by the union’s 32 team representatives, the salary cap — or the maximum amount teams can spend on their rosters — will remain at just under $200 million per team this season. But the cap will have a minimum of $175 million next season. Any shortfalls in revenue next year will be made up by reducing the salary cap through the 2023 season.

The owners also agreed to a player proposal to scrap all preseason games to reduce the risk of infection.

The sides had already agreed on several measures to reduce the risk of infection from the coronavirus as teams return to camps, meetings and practices, including outlining who can be inside team facilities and daily player testing for the virus.

But the owners and the players’ union had remained deadlocked on thornier questions, even as players began reporting to team facilities this week, leading some star players to start a public relations offensive on social media pushing for their concerns. Those included how much players will be paid if the season is shortened or canceled, and how to reduce the players’ share of the loss of revenue if teams do not allow fans at games this season.

All players have to report to training camp by July 28. But with each team required to test players and staff members at least twice before allowing them to enter their facilities to take physicals, it is more likely that practices will begin in early August.

Though all sides hope to open the regular season on Sept. 10, it remains unclear whether teams will allow any fans to attend. Earlier this week, the league said that fans would be required to wear masks at games and both the Giants and Jets became the first N.F.L. franchises to say that they would play regular-season games at MetLife Stadium without spectators, heeding New Jersey’s prohibitions on mass gatherings. Some teams like the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots have announced plans to limit their stadium’s capacity to allow for fans.

“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,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

The league earns about one-quarter of its $15 billion in annual revenue from local sources, including ticket sales, parking, food and beverage sales, luxury boxes and sponsorships. The loss of income from these fan-less games could cost the owners and players several billion dollars, though the precise amount will not be determined until the end of the season.

The players and the league agreed on the wide-ranging parameters, having had the benefit of observing other professional leagues negotiate returns with their unions.

Although the N.F.L. and union locked horns the talks were considered to be less acrimonious than those between Major League Baseball and its players’ union.

While the owners are taking some steps, like selling additional sponsorships, to reduce their revenue losses, the players and owners had to decide how to offset the players’ share of the losses. The owners wanted to put 35 percent of player salaries this season in escrow, determine what the losses were at the end of the year and return any difference.

The players preferred to spread out the losses over as many as 10 years by reducing the salary cap. They ultimately agreed to recoup the losses over three seasons.

In the new collective bargaining agreement signed in March, the players are owed 48 percent of league revenue, which means they are on the hook for that percentage of any losses. That labor deal does not include a clause that would allow the owners to forgo paying the players following certain extraordinary events, like natural disasters or terror attacks.

Still, the start of training camp was never in doubt because the owners have the right to open camps at their discretion, and players who do not report could face penalties. But the union had pushed for a host of steps and the negotiations over player health and safety largely concluded just before the first rookies had to report to training camp on July 20.

The league also agreed to test the players every day for the first two weeks they are in camp and if the rate of positive tests is below 5 percent, tests will be provided every other day.

According to the players’ union, 95 players and staff members tested positive for the coronavirus during the off-season. The league expects potentially hundreds of players to test positive when the nearly 2,900 rookies, veterans and free agents travel from across the country to get tested by their teams before they begin training camp.

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