“Those practices are not in the best interest of player safety,” Smith told Mackenzie Salmon of USA Today. “They’re not in the best interest of protecting our players heading into training camp. And I don’t think they are in the best interest of us getting through an entire season.”
The union recently told players to halt private workouts amid spiking coronavirus cases across the United States. Brady and Wilson have both defied those orders, posting on social media about holding workouts with teammates.
Brady’s workouts have drawn significant concern because he is holding them in Florida, which is seeing the largest spike in COVID-19 cases in the United States. Florida set a new daily record for cases in a single state with nearly 10,000 on Friday.
Smith said he understands the competitive nature of players makes them want to work out but cautioned about the potential ramifications.
“I certainly understand how competitive our players are and I get that,” Smith said. “At the same time, we are in the process of trying to negotiate, we have to negotiate with the league what happens when a player tests positive during the season. Does that player go on injured reserve? Do they go on short-term IR? If you test positive for the virus after training camp, is that a work-related injury? Are you covered under workers comp? What benefits are available to you if you have downstream injuries from contacting COVID-19?
“All of the things that players may want to do during the offseason have a direct impact on how well we can negotiate protections for them once the season starts. We sent out the guidance because that was in their best health and safety interests. Let’s just say for some of the players who have practiced, we’ve made sure they heard the message.”
The NFL has offered no viable alternative to its status quo, publicly saying the league plans to hold training camp, the preseason and regular season as scheduled, with fan attendance. With training camp only a month away and no end to the pandemic in sight, the feasibility of that plan seems unlikely.
The league and union will have to collectively bargain any CBA changes and potential safety measures, and Brady and Wilson are not doing Smith any favors in negotiations by bucking social distancing recommendations.