As we navigate this most unusual set of circumstances in the year 2020, the slow return of activities shutdown by the coronavirus continues to pick up steam. The epidemic wiped out much of the offseason on-field activities for NFL teams, including OTAs and mini-camps that usually dot the schedule after the draft and previous to training camps.
So the next big step for the NFL is to bring the players back for on-field activities. Last week coaches started to trickle back into the various facilities around the league, but no players as of yet. The big question on everyone’s mind concerning the return of the players is when will training camps open.
The CBA says they should be back in late-July, but given the circumstances, camps may open up even sooner, possibly in mid-July.
The new CBA dictates that teams can report 47 days before their first regular season game, meaning the report date for most teams would be July 28. Meanwhile, the joint committee on health and safety is recommending an acclimation period before camp, given the lack of football activity these guys have had, of at least a week or two (and up to three). The good news is, the new CBA builds in a five-day acclimation period. The bad news is players may need more than that under these unique circumstances. So the league has floated the idea of an earlier report date closer to the middle of July, to give players a better chance to get their feet underneath them.
A source has indicated that the idea of trying to fit in any mini-camps/OTAs in June is essentially dead. The final day for such activities by CBA guidelines would be June 26 and the feeling is there is no way logistically to make those happen. Based on that, the first opportunity for teams to gather and have full-participation practices would be this proposed “acclimation period” that could take place in mid-July.
To make this happen, the NFL and the player’s union would have to reach an agreement. If the union balks at the idea of this earlier period of team activities, there is another plan being floated that centers around cancelling the first week of preseason games and building in the “acclimation period” based off of that schedule. Essentially the beginning of camps in late-July would be the “acclimation period” and they would have extra time in training camp by cancelling the first preseason game.
One final note from this is that although the plan for now is to stay on schedule for the start of the season in early-September, there is reportedly some support among teams to postpone the start until October. The idea is to get a look at what other leagues are doing right and wrong upon their returns and have more information before starting the season. Reportedly, the league office is not in favor of this option and for it to happen would require negotiations between the league and the union.
So while things are still a little bit in flux, we are starting to see the contours of what could be a return to football.
Additionally, the league has created protocols for the return of players and other essential personnel to facilities. You can read that below.
Among the highlights here:— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) June 8, 2020
- Locker rooms reconfigured to permit people being 6 feet apart
- Meetings must be conducted virtually when possible
- Helmets, shoulder pads, etc. disinfected after each game
- Masks required except when interfering with "athletic activities" https://t.co/AvNO7Si2Gt