NFL Mini-Camps are a staple of the summer months, as newly drafted rookies join club veterans and free agent signings. Unfortunately, though, the traditional offseason programs remain on hold while the league sorts out how to best manage during the coronavirus pandemic.
Back in April, the NFL and the Players Association agreed that a virtual offseason could be conducted through May 15th. Over than span, teams provided classroom instructions and workouts through virtual means, using mostly video conference.
On Tuesday, Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, explained that there’s no timeline for team facilities to open their doors to players. Sills indicated it depends on “testing, test availability and test reliability.”
NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills won’t put a timeline on players returning to facilities, saying it depends on “testing, test availability and test reliability” as well as managing exposure to the virus. Says they’re moving in that direction but timeline TBD.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) May 19, 2020
Sills also said: “We are not putting dates on the calendar at this point.”
No NFL Mini-Camps
While the shutters may be coming off some NFL facilities around the country, the reality is the league is still a ways away from returning to normal.
NFL mini-camps exist to get newly drafted rookies acclimated to the league. Coaches and team executives get their first look at these players and begin formulating their plans for the season. The pandemic, though, has altered the traditional offseason approach.
As the country continues its efforts to reopen, the league is taking a cautious step forward. Like much of the US, the NFL planned a phased set of reopening protocols. Among them: temperature checks and wearing masks.
Commissioner Goodell sent this memo to teams today about reopening their facilities: pic.twitter.com/037uKybDNV— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 15, 2020
On Tuesday this week, a few teams opened their facilities, but mostly to support personnel. Coaches are not allowed back yet, because the NFL want to maintain a competitive equity amongst all 32 teams.
In NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s memo to the teams, he outlined the specific protocols the league will follow.
Players cannot return to the team facility unless they are receiving medical treatment or conducting rehabilitation exercises.
The facilities themselves cannot operate with more than 50 percent of the staff at any one time. Also, that number cannot exceed 75 persons.
The NFL’s efforts to maintain competitive equity indicates that no member of a coaching staff can return to a facility until all 32 teams are given that clearance.
If an incident of Covid-19 is registered at a team facility, it must be reported to Dr. Sills and the league, in addition to any local governmental requirements.
Dr. Sills acknowledged this possibility during the virtual meeting. “We fully expect we will have positive cases that will arise,” he said.
Last Time there was No NFL Mini-Camp
The 2011 lockout erased the NFL’s offseason program and delayed the opening of some training camps. No NFL mini-camps that offseason may have limited the rookies of the 2011 class, but it didn’t really show once the regular season came around.
That year, 28 rookies played at least 50 percent of snaps for their teams. Among the offensive standouts: Julio Jones, Roy Helu, DeMarco Murray and A.J. Green. Also, 13 defensive rookies recorded at least five sacks.
That class featured a pair of rookie quarterbacks that started every game for their teams: Cam Newton (No. 1 overall) for the Carolina Panthers and Andy Dalton (No. 35) for the Cincinnati Bengals. In addition, Blaine Gabbert (No. 10) started 14 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Christian Ponder (No. 12) started 10 games for the Minnesota Vikings.
This bodes well for Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow. He’s the odds-on starter for the Bengals this season, NFL mini-camp or not. The other highly drafted quarterbacks are Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5 overall) and Chargers’ Justin Herbert (No. 6). Both will compete once team facilities open in full.
The NFL remains confident that the 2020 season will proceed as planned, despite the disruption to traditional offseason activities like the NFL mini-camp.