While most NFL teams will do almost anything to gain a competitive advantage, they won’t be able to use their ability to return from the coronavirus pandemic as one.
With some team facilities set to re-open on Tuesday, NFL.com’s Judy Battista reported that “the thinking in the league right now is that coaches will not return until all facilities are open.”
On Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gave the green light for teams to partially open their facilities as long as state and local regulations allow it.
No more than 50% of staff and 75 individuals will be allowed at the same facility at any one time. Only players rehabbing from an injury or are undergoing medical treatment will be granted entry along with members of a team’s strength and conditioning staff.
That means no coaches or healthy players will be allowed to ensure a competitive balance is kept, which could remain in place until all teams pass local and state guidelines regardless of timeframe, as Battista alluded to.
As it stands, approximately 10 teams cannot open their facilities, per Battista including the Giants, Jets, and Eagles.
The decision to allow some team facilities to open was the NFL’s first step in working its way back to normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the league hasn’t been nearly as affected as the other major sporting leagues in the United States, there is still plenty of uncertainty surrounding football’s progress leading into Week 1 this fall.
Teams have been conducting offseason activities virtually — a concept that might remain in place through camp in July given the unpredictability of the coronavirus outbreak and spread.
It’s led some to call for the limiting of expectations surrounding the NFL’s summer schedule, including the preseason which begins on Aug 6 with the Hall of Fame Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.
“I’m telling fans not to get their hopes up, just like I’m telling everybody who wants to see a concert. There’s a nice, little roll-out plan and everybody is supposed to be business-as-usual by July. That’s assuming that we’ve got a handle on this thing,” infectious disease doctor Mark Bochan, MD, Ph.D., told Sports Illustrated. “Right now, it’s a little too early to make those calls. Based on what I’m seeing over the last 60 days, we’re still going to be dealing with this well into the summer. There will be enough worry that it probably will delay at least an on-time start.”