NFL expects on-time start for training camps

 

The NFL has advised its teams to expect an on-time start for training camps next month, league executive vice president/general counsel Jeff Pash said Thursday.

For most teams, that means players will report no later than July 28 to begin preparing for the 2020 season.

Speaking on a conference call following a virtual meeting of league owners, Pash said that “active discussions” are ongoing about what will happen after that point.

The Hall of Fame Game, the league’s annual preseason opener that was originally scheduled for Aug. 8, has already been canceled by the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s possible the four-week preseason will be shortened as teams focus on keeping their personnel healthy for the Sept. 10 start of the regular season.

“We expect to have some resolution relatively soon on that,” Pash said, “and will advise the clubs at that time.”

The league released earlier this month a 13-page document detailing methods and protocols for maintaining social distance and minimizing virus spread at club facilities, where each team will hold training camp this year. But Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said the league has not yet finalized its next step, which is to create a coronavirus testing, screening and treatment protocol.

Sills, however, pledged the NFL and NFL Players Association would set up “a very ambitious testing program, one that will attempt to keep everyone in the team environment as safe as possible. That includes not only players, but also coaches, staff and everyone who will be together.”

During the conference call, Sills fielded several questions about group player workouts this month, led most notably by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. The players are not in violation of NFL policy, because they are working out on their own and away from team facilities. But the NFLPA advised players last week to avoid such workouts. Sills did not mention Brady or the Buccaneers in particular, but said the NFL agreed with the NFLPA’s advisory.

“The NFLPA and the NFL are in the same exact place,” Sills said, “which is we want whatever makes the safest possible environment for all of our constituents, whether they be players, coaches, trainers, medical staff [or] anyone in that team environment. We’re going to work very hard to educate everyone about the steps that we feel collectively are going to be most effective in reducing risk for everyone.

“Again, this is all about risk reduction and trying to mitigate risk. We know that we can’t eliminate risk. We will work very much hand-in-hand with the players association. This is where everyone in that team environment is going to share the same risks, but they’ll also share the same responsibilities with each other, which means that everyone is going to be dependent on every other member of that team environment, for doing the very best that they can to implement these measures and keep themselves and their household members as safe as possible throughout the course of the season.”

In other NFL news:

  • The NFL has not yet finalized a policy for allowing fans into stadiums during games, and it might leave those decisions to individual teams. Regardless, owners approved a plan Thursday to tarp off the seats nearest to the field in each stadium, as part of a larger plan to keep players and coaches physically distanced from anyone in the stands. Teams will be allowed to sell advertising for the tarps, said Renie Anderson, the NFL’s executive vice president of NFL partnerships and chief revenue officer.
  • The league is tracking the amount of positive coronavirus tests among league personnel around the country. Sills declined to provide the totals to date.
  • NFL teams will be given anti-racism training in the middle of July, according to Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations.
  • The league is developing programs and working with the NFLPA, the Players Coalition and others (including RISE and the US Vote Foundation) that will focus on education, registration and activation. The goal is for everyone associated with the NFL — players, coaches, executives, staff — to register to vote, to vote and inspire others to vote. The NFL will support players who have plans or programs to do the same in their communities.
  • The NFL is discussing changes to roster rules that would accommodate players who are unavailable for games because of positive coronavirus tests. No final decisions have been made, Pash said.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter contributed to this story.