The NFL is about to hike the ball on the start of training camps this week, even though a play to face the pandemic has not been called in the huddle.
Players are scheduled to begin reporting to camps as soon as Monday while negotiations regarding the details of that process continue to be haggled over by the league and its players’ union.
Executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent sent a memo on Saturday to all 32 general managers and head coaches telling them that full training camps will begin as previously scheduled on July 28 (with the exception of the Chiefs and Texans, who will start several days earlier because they open their regular seasons on a Thursday). The memo said teams can have rookies report this Tuesday and that quarterbacks and injured players can report on Thursday. (Kansas City and Houston can have those players report on Monday.)
The Jets will follow that prescribed schedule, with their first players expected to arrive in Florham Park on Tuesday. The Giants plan to have their rookies report to East Rutherford on Thursday along with the quarterbacks and injured players.
Not all teams are as eager to start, however. According to reports, the 49ers have told their players to expect a training camp start date later than July 28. California is one of the states seeing a rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks. Other teams in other hotspots might institute similar delays.
Vincent’s memo followed a virtual meeting of NFL team owners on Friday in which they determined the dates for the start of camps, which is allowed under the CBA. Also on Friday, the NFLPA insisted that it will prioritize safety above all else when it comes to protocols put in place for the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Every decision we make this year has to be made through a medical lens,” Browns center and NFLPA president J.C. Tretter said on Friday.
While the league and union have had steady and positive discussions regarding the look of camps this summer and into the season, including negotiations on opt-outs for players who are concerned about their or their families’ health and what happens if the season cannot be completed, plenty of unresolved particulars remain just a day before the first players are scheduled to report.
Among those issues are how often players will be tested (the union wants more), how many preseason games will be played (the union wants fewer), and what will happen to teams if they encounter a high number of players or personnel who test positive.
Those negotiations continue.
Training camps, in whatever form they take, will provide teams the first opportunity to gather their players since the end of the 2019 season. All teams held their voluntary offseason workouts and OTAs virtually, beginning in April. The NFL conducted its free-agency period and its draft in a mostly virtual world as well. As such, many players who have signed with or were drafted by new teams have yet to actually set foot in that team’s facility. Many of the contracts with newly acquired players still are awaiting the physical examinations required to make them officially binding.
Currently, no more than 20 players are allowed at one time in any of the team facilities, a policy that will remain in place until the NFLPA signs off on infectious disease emergency response plans for each club. Other policies already in place include social distancing in locker rooms and meeting rooms, the use of virtual tools for meetings, and weight training and conditioning sessions held outdoors whenever possible. The league also required that all training camps be held at team facilities rather than the college campuses or other off-site locations.
Those standards were set in place in the late spring, when it was hoped that the virus would be trending down by the start of camps. Since then, however, many regions of the country have had a spike in positive cases. Players have worried about the risks they will be taking by traveling to the various cities where NFL camps will take place, along with the risks of the camps themselves.