Rookies will face an uphill battle when training camps begin, with the NFL having completed an entirely virtual offseason. There might be even less preparation time for first-year hopefuls. July 28 remains the target date for most teams to report to camp, and rookies are slated to report a few days earlier. Teams may be rethinking that itinerary. At least one franchise will not bring rookies in early, instead prioritizing COVID-19 precautions ahead of the veterans’ reporting date, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. This team will then have all players reporting at the same time. This will certainly not be the last schedule adjustment the coronavirus causes the NFL, which went to a virtual draft, a virtual offseason and canceled the Hall of Fame Game thus far.
Here is the latest from the NFL’s defining 2020 story:
- Even after the Cowboys-Steelers Canton kickoff game was canceled, the rest of the preseason remains on schedule. But the discussed acclimation period — on the table because of teams’ OTAs and minicamps being switched to virtual sessions — still threatens to eliminate part of the preseason. The NFL and NFLPA are discussing a “safe acclimation period,” which would consist of conditioning and could last multiple weeks, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes (video link). Having an acclimation period before usual camp activities begin would wipe out part of the preseason. With the NFL having the option to exercise the 17-game regular-season schedule (and three-game preseason docket) next year, the days of the four-game preseason slate may already be over.
- NFL-NFLPA negotiations are also including intra-facility safety. The sides are discussing adjustments on how players travel to and from various places in their respective facilities in the COVID-19 world, Pelissero adds. The NFL already issued a set of guidelines — from mandatory masks in non-workout settings to capacity limits in weight rooms to spaced-out locker rooms, etc. — but the sides still have some work to do on these issues, which have caused heated debates.
- While it is not certain how often teams will test players, NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said the league is planning an “ambitious” testing program, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). The NFLPA said recently tests can be expected to occur at least three times per week.
- Agents will need to have conversations with each of their clients about the risks of playing the season in this environment by mid-July, per an NFLPA directive (via Pelissero, on Twitter). Players will then be advised to meet with a doctor on the topic of playing in 2020. The NFL has yet to implement an opt-out policy. While the NBA and MLB have done so, the NFL features a larger workforce — most of whom would put their jobs at risk by sitting out the season. But between now and the start of training camp, some clarity on the opt-out issue for players at higher risk (or players with family members in that category) will almost certainly emerge.