SportsPulse: Mackenzie Salmon breaks down all the changes you can expect in the aftermath of the NFL’s new CBA that the league and players recently agreed on.
As the entire sporting landscape has just about postponed or cancelled all events due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, one former NFL player is asking for one more thing to be pushed back.
Former Buffalo Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who announced his retirement in January but remains on the NFL Players Association’s executive committee, said he thinks the start of free agency should be delayed.
“I think push it back, because obviously there’s some things that are bigger than football,” Alexander said Sunday on NFL Network. “And obviously that’s the safety of everybody and their well-being. Even though, being in the prime shape of my life, I don’t want to expose, myself, my family, my parents or anybody that I know that has pre-existing conditions around me. I think if you set it back for everybody it really doesn’t have an impact on somebody having a competitive advantage, in that sense.”
NFL free agency is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 18, which had been the date set for the start of the new league year.
For free agency to be pushed back, however, both the NFL and the players association would need to agree to the decision, since it is a collectively bargained issue. The NFLPA announced Sunday morning that a brand new collective bargaining agreement had been ratified with a 51.5 % approval rate (1,019 to 959).
With the new deal set in place that runs through the 2030 season, it paves the way for the league and union representatives to discuss potentially delaying the start of free agency.
Sports as a whole has virtually shut down for the time being as the globe tries to halt the rapid spread of the virus, known officially as COVID-19, which now has more than 3,200 confirmed cases in the United States, with 62 deaths.
Large public gatherings have ceased, schools and universities have closed, and local governments are considering restricting the hours of operation of business to try to curb the spread of the virus.
Though the NFL is not in season, it sent a memo Friday to all 32 teams ordering for the teams to stop pre-draft visits in which teams host draft prospects at their local facilities. The majority of teams have also pulled their scouts and coaching staffs off of the road in response to the spread of the virus.
“I think we need (to be) weary of the times that we’re in and put things in proper perspective and that is making sure that we’re all safe,” Alexander said on NFL Network. “So just push it back with the idea of making sure that player safety is first as well as our communities and our families that we’re impacting, as well.”
Though players are free to sign contracts in free agency without in-person visits, many players tour the different team facilities, meet with coaches and team personnel, and often take physicals needed to complete these deals. As more government officials advise against traveling, those restrictions could potentially impact the way free agency interest and signings are consummated.
“There’s some things that are common sense and the right thing to do,” Alexander said. “In this case, the right thing to do is to push it back.”
Alexander played 14 seasons in the league with the Ravens, Redskins, Cardinals, Raiders, and Bills.
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