In Need Of A Deal, NFL Faces Crucial Days Ahead

(670 The Score) The ugliness between Major League Baseball and its players' union at the bargaining became public viewing for America earlier this spring and summer. To this point, the NFL has avoided that fate.

But the NFL is now in a similar place to where MLB was as it attempts to iron out a deal with its players' association on various return-to-play protocols and details to conduct the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic. The clock is past midnight on these negotiations.

Rookies from the Chiefs and Texans reported to team facilities Monday morning despite the lack of an agreement between the league and union on three key points -- health and safety protocols, financial structure and a preseason format. The NFL and its owners will hold a call Monday afternoon with the hopes of finalizing a deal, ESPN reported.

Without a deal in the coming days, the NFL is in jeopardy of a delayed start to the regular season, which is scheduled to open with a Chiefs-Texans game in Kansas City on Sept. 10.

The NFL has proposed playing two preseason games, while the union has held firm in wanting no exhibition contests. On Monday, the league was planning to propose a reduction to one preseason game, NFL Media reported. What remains in the negotiations are sticking points over whether players will still be paid in full -- which is the union's  stance -- and a firm plan for coronavirus testing.

On Sunday, a number of prominent NFL players took to Twitter in a coordinated effort to express frustration with the league's stance. 

"We as players/people give everything to this game of Football," Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan tweeted. "There should be a set plan for our safety. As protectors of our family we want them to be safe as well as ourselves. Who don’t want to see great games. Well let’s have a great PLAN."

Nearly every tweet from NFL players included the same hashtag: #WeWantToPlay.

The Bears are scheduled to report for training camp on July 28. For the first time, they will be conducting camp from their team headquarters of Halas Hall. That was a decision the Bears reached in January before the pandemic. After renovating to add a 162,500-square-foot football operations building last year, the Bears have enough space for training camp, even with the need for social distancing.

There's plenty of work for the Bears to accomplish before they open the regular season against the Lions on Sept. 13 -- namely deciding whether Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles will be the starting quarterback.

Training camp will have a different feel. Offseason programs were conducted virtually this spring, and teams haven't been on the field together since the end of last season. Camps will be phased accordingly to make up for lost time on the field. Though the details are still being negotiated, it's clear full-padded practicing wouldn't begin until later in the preseason.

The bargaining over exhibition games appears to be heading toward just one, likely the third scheduled preseason game on each team's slate that comes in late August. 

Of course, an agreement between the NFL and players' association must first be reached or else the season is at risk of being shortened. If players continue to report to camp without a deal in place, the union is likely to file a grievance. Given the significance of the situation, the union could simply tell players to stay back until an agreement is reached.

It's past midnight for the NFL, and the clock keeps ticking away. The longer these negotiations go, the uglier it will get.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.