The NFL and NFL Players Association continue to discuss the parameters of the rules for opting out of the season due to the pandemic. The league wants minimal opt outs and a firm deadline for making a final decision. Players surely prefer to have the flexibility to experience training camp and a game or two before making a final decision.
Whatever a player chooses to do and whenever a player chooses to do it, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt believes that any decision from any player to sit out the season should be respected.
“I think that every guy’s situation is different,” Watt said during a Wednesday appearance on the #PFTPM podcast. “There could be a guy who has a child with asthma and really just doesn’t wanna bring it back home, or you have a pregnant wife. I think that the one thing I would say to that is there shouldn’t be a stigma if you do choose to opt out. If there is a legitimate reason for you to be opting out, you don’t feel comfortable whether it’s for yourself, whether it’s for your family, I don’t personally think there shouldn’t be a stigma for that because you’re making the best decision for yourself and for your family. If we ever get to the point where we’re shaming people for dropping out of a sport because they want to protect the health of their family, then we’re in a tough spot.”
He’s right, but the reality is that plenty of fans and some in the media and a lot of fantasy football owners will have something not so nice to say when a key player makes the conscientious decision to sit out the season. Here’s hoping that others will push back against that kind of criticism aggressively and loudly.
Football players want to play football. The prospect of voluntarily not playing will be agonizing. The player who chooses not to play will be tormented by a feeling that he has betrayed his coaches and his teammates. So let’s remember that these football players are human beings who won’t be making the decision to not play lightly, and who will be haunted by whether they made the right decision every hour of every day of the 2020 season, and beyond.