New England Patriots

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - NOVEMBER 17: Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots congratulates Jason McCourty #30 of the New England Patriots after he broke up a pass intended for Jordan Matthews #80 of the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 17, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The New England Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 17-10. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com

With NFL Training Camps opening in two weeks, questions still abound about what professional football will look like in 2020. Those questions have mostly been coming from pundits and analysts, but now they’re coming from inside the league.

Patriots defensive backs Devin and Jason McCourty co-authored a guest column for Sports Illustrated’s MMQB that dropped Monday morning. In the piece, they set about trying to answer the question, “what exactly does the 2020 NFL player look like?” in a time of both Coronavirus and in the midst of a social justice movement.

On COVID, the brothers put forth a number of questions that would seemingly have to be answered before the season begins.

Will we have an option to opt out of the season? Will we be making our full salary? What if there is a COVID outbreak within the league? It’s so hard to make a decision of whether we will play or not without knowing what the exact plan is. Nothing has been agreed upon when it comes to what the stadium will look like. Will we be able to have meetings in the building? Or will the meetings still be done virtually? Will testing be a few times a week or will it be every day? As players, how do we decide what is best for us and our families when we don’t know what we’re walking into?

It’s unlikely the twins are the only players asking the same or similar questions. The answers to many of these will likely relate back to their first point, whether or not players can opt out of the season.

Opt outs have been more and more frequent amongst the NHL, NBA, and MLB as they try to make their way back. Given football has been labeled by doctors as the highest-risk sport among the four, would they be even more prevalent in the NFL?

The piece touched on social justice issues as well. The McCourtys made it clear that football or no football, they and the rest of the NFL players who have used their platform in recent weeks don’t plan to put that important work aside.

Oct 6, 2019; Landover, MD, USA; New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) and Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty (30) leap while running onto the field for warmups prior to their game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

“If you just want to see guys play football, 2020 might be the year to take a break from the NFL,” they wrote. “Guys have a burning passion for change, and nothing will get in the way.”

The McCourty’s expect that “the 2020 season will most likely feature men kneeling during the national anthem for the first time—some players and possibly coaches. We’ll also see more players writing op-eds, testifying at state houses and working in a number of other ways.”

Examples they cited include Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who recently took a job as a contributor to CNN. Ben Watson, who the brothers spoke very highly of during their time as teammates last season, was also mentioned.

Maybe Ben Watson will be inspired by Kanye West and add his name to the Presidential race. Ben: You would have our votes.

They also addressed recent anti-Semitic comments by Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The comments resulted in the Eagles having to release a statement, and fining Jackson an undisclosed amount.

We recently saw DeSean Jackson post a message he probably would like to take back. Trying to empower black people, he used a quote that was just flat-out wrong. We must eliminate hate from the world in every way possible. Anti-Semitism is wrong, just like racism toward black people is wrong.

If and when football does finally return, the discussions around the game will likely be tailored more to what is happening off rather than on the field. The McCourty brothers have let everybody know where they stand on a number of key issues two weeks out from training camp. As respected leaders in the league and NFLPA, it’s likely other players will follow in their footsteps.

Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.