Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) rushes for yards behind Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter (64) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio.

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NFLPA re-elects J.C. Tretter as president

The NFL Players Association’s board of player representatives unanimously re-elected Cleveland Browns center J.C. Tretter as president on Saturday.

Tretter, who ran unopposed, secured his second two-year term at the NFLPA’s annual meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to once again lead our union,” said Tretter, 31. “My first term brought some unprecedented challenges, and it was an honor to work with our leadership and player membership to protect our wages as well as our health and safety. I am grateful to the Board of Player Reps for believing in me as we continue our efforts to advance the rights of all players.”

San Francisco 49ers center Alex Mack also ran unopposed and was re-elected to serve as the NFLPA’s treasurer.

Five new players were voted by the board to serve two-year terms on the executive committee: Austin Ekeler (Los Angeles Chargers), Ryan Kelly (Indianapolis Colts), Jason McCourty (Miami Dolphins), Brandon McManus (Denver Broncos) and Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Detroit Lions).

Four returning members of the executive committee were re-elected to two-year terms: Calais Campbell (Baltimore Ravens), Thomas Morstead (Atlanta Falcons), Richard Sherman (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Michael Thomas (Cincinnati Bengals).

Tretter started 16 games for the Browns in 2021. The 2013 fourth-round pick has started 90 of his 111 games with the Green Bay Packers (2014-16) and Cleveland.

–Field Level Media

Jan 17, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; A coronavirus COVID-19 face mask advisory sign at a NFC Wild Card playoff football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL ends COVID restrictions, including testing and tracking

A memo sent to all 32 NFL teams on Thursday signals the end of all COVID-19 protocols, including testing and tracking for players and staff, per multiple reports.

All COVID-19 restrictions are “suspended” and can be restored if the NFL and NFL Players Association agree the need exists.

The memo states “current encouraging trends regarding” the pandemic led to the decision.

The NBA and NHL are still employing in-season restrictions as public mask mandates and vaccine orders are being peeled back across the country.

Included in the NFL pause are restrictions on facilities and training areas for players and staff that had been subject to close monitoring.

–Field Level Media

Nov 22, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Kansas City Chiefs long snapper James Winchester (41) is wearing mask before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders as the CDC recommends wearing masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. Everyone should wear a mask covering unless they are under 2 years of age, and or having a breathing problems at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL COVID protocol change includes high-risk opt-out option

With reserve/COVID-19 lists filling up around the league, the NFL and NFL Players Association announced a new set of protocols on Saturday.

The changes include a more targeted testing plan, more flexibility for players to attend meetings virtually and the option for high-risk players to opt-out for the remainder of the season.

“The NFL and NFLPA have been engaged with our medical advisors to address the emergence of the new Omicron variant and how to stop the spread to ensure we keep everyone safe and complete the remainder of the season responsibly,” read the joint NFL-NFLPA statement issued Saturday.

The latest protocol updates follow a schedule shuffle that saw Saturday’s game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Cleveland Browns moved to Monday, and two of Sunday’s games — Washington at the Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks at the Los Angeles Rams — moved to Tuesday due to COVID-related personnel shortages.

–Field Level Media

Jan 31, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith speaks during the NFLPA press conference in advance of the Super Bowl LIII where the New England Patriots will play the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3, 2019 at Mercedes_Benz Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

NFLPA gives DeMaurice Smith another term

DeMaurice Smith will remain the NFL Players Association’s executive director for one more term, which will be his last, after the union’s Board of Player Representatives voted to retain him on Friday.

According to NFL Network and ESPN, Smith received the exact minimum number of votes to keep his job, 22 of 32. Of the other 10, eight reportedly dissented and two abstained.

Smith’s upcoming term might be as short as one year, per NFL Network.

NFLPA president JC Trotter, a Cleveland Browns center, wrote of Smith in a statement, “He was transparent with us about his interest in moving on after this term and for the stability and security of our union, he will work with our player leadership to ensure we have a succession plan in place for the next leader. De cares deeply about our union and about our players and we thank him for staying to help us secure a strong future for the NFLPA.”

Had Smith received fewer than 22 votes Friday, the union would have held an election in March to determine who would serve the next term. Smith could have run again as long as he got 16 or more votes Friday.

Smith and the NFLPA came under scrutiny after a faction of the players objected to the outcome of the most recent collective bargaining agreement talks. The current CBA, in place through 2030, was ratified on March 8, 2020, just before the sports world was shuttered due to the pandemic.

The news of Smith’s new term comes on the same day that his name made headlines for reasons outside his control. The Wall Street Journal reported that now-Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden referred to Smith using racist wording in an email sent in July 2011.

Gruden apologized in the wake of the report.

Smith told the Journal, in part, “This is not the first racist comment that I’ve heard and it probably will not be the last. … Racism like this comes from the fact that I’m at the same table as they are and they don’t think someone who looks like me belongs. I’m sorry my family has to see something like this but I would rather they know. I will not let it define me.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 31, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA;  NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith during the NFLPA press conference at the Georgia World Congress Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: DeMaurice Smith could be voted out as NFLPA chief

DeMaurice Smith’s days as the NFL Players Association’s executive director could be numbered, according to multiple media outlets.

Smith, who has held the NFLPA’s top position for the past 12 years, reportedly will learn his fate Friday evening. Per numerous reports, the 32 team player representatives will vote on whether to retain Smith, who needs to receive 22 votes to continue in his role.

If he fails to get 22 votes, there would be an election in March to determine the next executive director. Smith could run in that election as long as he receives at least 16 votes in Friday’s balloting.

Smith finds himself in this position because the NFLPA’s executive committee took a vote Tuesday night, according to media reports, and he failed to receive sufficient support from the 14-member committee. A unanimous vote would have kept Smith in his position, likely on a new three-year contract, but the vote reportedly was split evenly at 7-7.

If Smith had received six votes or fewer on Tuesday, his position would have been considered “open” and the process of finding a new executive director would have commenced.

Smith and the union were criticized by some players during the most recent round of collective bargaining agreement negotiations. The current CBA, which will be in place through 2030, was finalized on March 8, 2020, right before sports began to shut down because of the pandemic.

–Field Level Media

Buffalo Bills Marshawn Lynch breaks an attempted tackle by Green Bay Packers safety Morgan Burnett during the first quarter of their game Sunday, September 19, 2010 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won, 34-7.

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NFLPA names Marshawn Lynch chief brand ambassador

Former running back Marshawn Lynch will serve as the NFL Players Association’s first chief brand ambassador, the union announced Tuesday.

Per the NFLPA, Lynch “will work with union leadership to ensure its 2,000-plus members get the most out of football, providing strategic support and insight for the many athlete-driven programs, resources and revenue growth opportunities available to players.”

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said the addition of the five-time Pro Bowl selection “is a huge win in furthering our mission as a full-service union to our men on and off the field.”

Per the NFLPA release, Lynch will spend his time aiding athletes through events and social media as well as help them with potential business opportunities.

“I’m always tryin’ to make the most outta my time and opportunities. Ya’ feel me? If you make it through pee wee, high school, college and you’re lucky enough to call yourself an NFL player, you’re in a situation to create and take part in (a lot of) opportunities, but you have to understand that you only get a little bit of time in that uni’, so you gotta max it out and put yourself in a position to make plays on and off the turf,” Lynch said in a statement.

“By partnering with the NFLPA and working with De Smith, I can share my path, pass down what I’ve been through and seen, so players can see what’s really out there for them and tap in to all the resources their teams, communities and the PA have available. I wanna put them in positions to be successful in every facet of their lives from building businesses based on their passions to of course takin’ care of their mentals and stackin’ their chicken.”

Lynch, 35, was selected by the Buffalo Bills with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. He played three-plus seasons in Buffalo, then moved on to the Seattle Seahawks and retired after the 2015 season. He came out of retirement in 2017 to play two seasons for the Raiders (2017-18) and three games — one in regular season, two in the playoffs — with the Seahawks (2019).

In his career, Lynch gained 12,627 yards from scrimmage and scored 94 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) catches the game-winning touchdown between Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer (21), and safety Micah Hyde (23) during the fourth quarter at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Nov. 15, 2020. The Cardinals won 32-30.

Buffalo Bills Vs Arizona Cardinals

NFL, players union reach pact with NFT maker

The best plays of the NFL season will soon be available as NFTs (non-fungible tokens) after a deal reached between the league, its players and Dapper Labs was announced on Wednesday.

Dapper Labs, which also makes digital collectibles for the NBA, will be tasked with creating unique digital video of the plays as NFTs that fans can then purchase as a sort of digital trading card.

“We are thrilled to partner with Dapper Labs in its launch of NFL digital video collectibles,” said Joe Ruggiero, the NFL senior vice president of consumer products. “We believe blockchain technology has great potential to enhance the NFL fan experience in the future and we are excited to have Dapper Labs as one of our first collaborators in exploring this emerging space.”

The deal also includes historic plays, with two recent plays cited as examples — Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray’s game-winning Hail Mary pass to DeAndre Hopkins in 2020, and Case Keenum’s touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs that lifted the Minnesota Vikings over the visiting New Orleans Saints in the 2017 playoffs.

“From the Hail Murray to the Minneapolis Miracle, magic happens in NFL stadiums. As a league that continually raises the bar, we are proud that the NFL and NFLPA have chosen Dapper Labs to deliver for NFL fans worldwide the Moments they’ve been waiting for. We can’t wait to give the more than 300 million NFL fans the opportunity to own the game that matters to them and engage with the sport in a whole new way,” Dapper Labs CEO Roham Gharegozlou said.

The NFTs are slated to begin becoming available later this season.

–Field Level Media

Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter (64) and Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Jack Conklin (78) take the field before NFL football practice, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in Berea, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

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NFLPA prez on COVID-19: League in ‘worse spot’ than ’20

NFL Players Association President and Cleveland Browns starting center JC Tretter said Tuesday the league is “in a worse spot” than last year due to the reduction of daily testing for COVID-19.

Tretter made the claim in his President’s Corner letter to the players.

“Despite our vaccination rates being extremely high, we have seen that the Delta variant can infect and spread among vaccinated people,” Tretter penned. “That means, at the moment, we are in a worse spot this year than last year because the NFL has backed off a key component of our previous success: daily testing.”

The NFLPA backs daily testing for all players, not just unvaccinated players.

“Clubs have been instructed to test fully vaccinated players and staff over the course of three days each week,” Tretter wrote. “This then leaves 4-6 days where we don’t know if a vaccinated individual is positive for COVID and shedding virus to those around him.

“Recently, Tennessee finished up with 14 positives – and the team was 97% vaccinated at that time. It’s not hard to realize how devastating that would be during a week of the regular season. Yet, incidents like this have flown under the radar because players missing training camp practices or preseason games isn’t big news.”

Games getting forfeited or canceled, however, is the “worst-case scenario that we should all be actively working to avoid.”

“We are all tired,” Tretter concluded. “No one likes mitigation methods. But we cannot do what is easy over what is right. We cannot do what is cheaper over what is right. We have been warned by our experts that, because of our current testing cadence, we are at more risk of missed games this season than last season. If we continue to go down this path, I need everyone in the football community to be aware of what lies ahead.”

Tretter also addressed the new taunting point of emphasis, making it clear the NFLPA did not push for the change and in fact “would support the removal of this point of emphasis immediately.”

“Don’t blame the players who show too much emotion, and cut the refs a break for doing their jobs. Blame the people who push for rules like this time and time again,” Tretter wrote. “In 2006, the NFL wanted to eliminate touchdown celebrations — a move that most players, fans and media members thought was a bad idea. It took the fans continuing to push back for the league to finally give in and allow everyone to have a little more fun. This is the league’s second bite at the apple and if fans want to see more emotion, I encourage them to continue to voice that to the league.”

–Field Level Media

Aug 29, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer on the sidelines during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Jaguars: No player released because of vaccination status

The Jacksonville Jaguars on Wednesday issued a statement dismissing the notion that any player was released because of their vaccination status.

The statement came one day after Jaguars coach Urban Meyer said he and general manager Trent Baalke considered a player’s vaccination status during final roster cuts.

Meyer’s comments were not well received by the NFL Players Association, which has since launched an investigation into the matter.

The Jaguars said Wednesday that roster moves were made solely upon a player’s ability to help the team win.

“Availability is one of the many factors taken into account when making roster decisions. We have vaccinated and unvaccinated players on our roster, and no player was released because of their vaccination status,” the Jaguars said in a statement.

“Ultimately, decisions are based on a player’s ability to help the Jaguars win. We educate our players and respect personal decisions as it pertains to the vaccine. We want to keep our players, staff and families safe as we comply with protocols related to both health and safety and competition on game days.”

Meyer said the following on Tuesday in regard to the team’s decisions on player cuts:

“Everyone was considered. That was part of the (considerations such as) production, let’s start talking about this, and also is he vaccinated or not? Can I say that that was a decision-maker? It was certainly in consideration.”

–Field Level Media

Feb 7, 2020; Tampa, FL, USA;  General view of the NFL Shield logo on the field before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

NFL, NFLPA agree to weekly COVID testing for vaccinated players

The NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed Monday that vaccinated players and team staff members will now undergo COVID testing once every seven days.

Previously, the NFL’s vaccinated personnel had been required to take a COVID test once every 14 days. The testing now will take place each week on the three days following a game.

All unvaccinated players will continue to be tested daily. Vaccinated players with vulnerable cohabitants can choose to be tested daily, as well.

As of last week, approximately 93 percent of NFL players and 99 percent of staff members were fully vaccinated. Those numbers are expected to change as NFL teams continue to trim their rosters with the start of the regular season approaching.

–Field Level Media