By Anne Burke

NFL players who contract the coronavirus through “high-risk” activity away from team facilities can face team discipline and might be at risk of not being paid, according to the league’s new protocol.

The NFLPA sent a memo to agents over the weekend about several rules governing player contracts, opt-out provisions and the contractual consequences of a canceled season.

Players are required to test negative twice before they will be allowed entry to the team facility at the start of training camp. Any player who is diagnosed with COVID-19 after two negative entry tests will have his condition diagnosed as a football injury, per the NFL/NLFPA agreement, and the team will be able to place that player on a COVID-19-specific injured reserve list, from which he will be allowed to return after meeting certain criteria.

The memo also states: “Clubs/NFL can challenge designation as a football related injury if it can prove that the player contracted COVID-19 through engaging in high risk conduct below. (This issue remains open.)”

Per the memo, the NFL defines high-risk conduct as attending:

indoor nightclub with more than 15 people

indoor bar with more than 15 people, other than to pick up food

indoor house party with more than 15 people

indoor music concert/entertainment event with more than 15 people

professional sporting event, other than applicable NFL games or events, with more than 15 people

indoor religious service attended by more than 25% of a venue’s capacity

Other items addressed in this weekend’s NFLPA memo:

There will be no reduction in 2020 players’ salaries or bonuses if there is a complete NFL season.

$17 million in 2020 player benefits have been canceled, including the second career savings plan, tuition assistance and playoff bye week pay. Those benefits will be repaid to players through a new benefit after 2023. Most of the canceled benefits would have been new this year under the CBA signed in March, and they will instead begin in 2021.

If at least one week of NFL games is played, players who were on a team’s Week 1 roster or practice squad will not have their contracts toll and will receive one full-credited season for the purpose of pension and benefits and an accrued season toward free agency.

A player who chooses to opt out of the 2020 season must inform his team in writing within seven days of the finalizing of the side letter. His contract will toll, meaning it will pick up next year where it is now. As long as he earned a credited season in 2019 or was drafted in 2020, he will get a stipend of $150,000, which will be treated as a salary advance and come out of future years’ pay.

A player who chooses to opt out because he is in a higher-risk medical category will get a $350,000 stipend that is not an advance against future salary. He will receive an accrued season toward free agency and a credited season toward player benefits and minimum salary.

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