NFLPA medical director on NFL players opting out: ‘Grown-ass men’ making ‘grown-ass decisions’

With the deadline now looming on Thursday for NFL players to determine whether they will exercise the opt-out clause contained in the revised labor pact due to concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, the chief medical adviser to the NFL Players Association clearly senses the dilemma some players face.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 49 players league-wide have elected to take the leave of absence for the 2020 season, with the prospect that a final wave of more opt-outs could be coming.

“Education is the key, so they can make a comfortable decision,” Mayer, the NFLPA’s medical director, told USA TODAY Sports. “They can sit down with their families and say, ‘What’s at risk if I play? What if I opt out?’

“I’ll use the term that they use all the time. They’re grown-ass men. And grown-ass men make grown-ass decisions.”

Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams is one of the players who has opted out of the 2020 NFL season. (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

Mayer, also an emergency room physician in Washington, D.C., says he is a proponent of personalized precision medicine, which heavily involves the participation of patients in treatment plans. He sees that as an essential factor for NFL players weighing out-opts. While some may choose to sit out due to underlying medical conditions, others are taking a leave as a measure of reducing the risk of becoming infected and spreading the novel coronavirus to family members.

“That’s why you have two players with the same medical condition and one says, ‘I’m going to opt out because of my family and kids,’ “ Mayer said, “and another player says, ‘I want to play.’ It’s what’s important to you.”

Players who opt out and have been diagnosed with certain medical risk factors can receive a $350,000 stipend that will not count against future earnings, while those who otherwise voluntarily opt out can receive a $150,000 salary advance. Contracts for all players opting out will toll to the 2021 season. 

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