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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

When the pandemic arrived and upended the world, the NFL was the only major American sports league with the luxury of time.

The big picture: The clock has now run out and on the eve of training camp, it's still remarkably unclear what the preseason and regular season will look like, particularly in regards to health and safety.

Driving the news: In a coordinated Twitter blitz on Sunday, NFL stars used the hashtag #WeWantToPlay to express their concern — publicly — about the lack of detailed health and safety protocols as rookies begin arriving at camp.

  • Russell Wilson: "I am concerned. My wife is pregnant. NFL training camp is about to start. And there's still no clear plan on player health & family safety. We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones."
  • J.J. Watt tweeted a list of what players do and don't know. "We still do not know if there will be daily testing," he wrote. "We still do not know if there will be preseason games ... We still do not know how a positive COVID test will be handled in regards to others in close contact."

The state of play: The NFL sent a league-wide memo on Saturday confirming that rookies will report to camp on Monday and Tuesday. QBs and injured players report Thursday, while all other players are scheduled to arrive next Tuesday, July 28.

  • The NFLPA wants daily testing, no preseason games and a 45-day "ramp-up" period (21 days of strength and conditioning, 10 days of non-padded practices and 14 days of "contact acclimation").
  • The NFL still wants two preseason games and hasn't agreed to the "ramp-up" period. Under the collective bargaining agreement, the league has the right to impose report dates and teams can fine players if they don't show up.

What's next: The #WeWantToPlay blitz sets the stage for the NFLPA to file a grievance over unsafe working conditions if the union hasn't signed off on protocols by the time players show up at camp.

  • What happens with rookies this week will determine next steps, but the union is prepared to file, a source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, and that will buy players time to try to finalize terms before veterans arrive next week.

The bottom line: One could blame the NFL and NFLPA for remaining so far apart despite a four-month head start. One could also blame America's botched coronavirus response, which rendered that head start virtually worthless.

Go deeper

Oct 27, 2020 - World

Putin mandates face masks as Russia combats second COVID-19 wave

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday instituted a nationwide mask mandate, as the nation tries to combat a second spike of COVID-19 cases, according to an order published by Rospotrebnadzor, the federal health watchdog agency.

By the numbers: Russia currently has the fourth-most coronavirus cases in the world, with 1,537,142, according to Johns Hopkins data, behind the U.S., India and Brazil. Russia has reported 26,092 deaths to date.

Updated Dec 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Americans shrug off Omicron, Axios-Ipsos poll finds — CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise."
  2. Vaccines: Omicron gives a shot to boosters — U.S. announces $400M for global COVID vaccine distribution — Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down.
  3. States: Gov. Hochul will order some NY hospitals to halt elective surgeries — Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers.
  4. World: EU drug regulator backs mixing COVID vaccines — Poor global equity likely in COVID pill access — CDC raises travel advisories for France, Portugal to highest level amid COVID surge.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
1 hour ago - World

Army to award Purple Hearts to troops injured in Iran missile attack

Damage at Ain al-Asad military airbase housing U.S. and other foreign troops in the western Iraqi province of Anbar in January 2020. Photo: Ayman Henna/AFP via Getty Images

The Army has approved 39 more Purple Hearts for U.S. soldiers wounded in an Iranian military ballistic missile attack on an Iraq base in January 2020, the Army Times first reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: Most of these soldiers sustained brain injuries, per the Army Times. Then-President Trump dismissed their injuries at the time as "headaches" and "not very serious," sparking backlash from some veterans groups.