Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league has instructed teams that training camps will begin on time in late July, despite a swath of states with NFL teams experiencing an aggressive spike in positive COVID-19 cases.
The announcement came after the NFL conducted a Thursday league meeting to address a variety of topics, chief among them being the next steps taken to get the 2020 season underway. While there wasn’t any specific guidance about where fan attendance will ultimately land for individual franchises, Goodell said the NFL won’t deviate from its camp kickoffs, mirroring other offseason decisions to press ahead on schedule like the draft and free agency.
The NFL and NFLPA have officially agreed upon a hard full-squad starting date of July 28, with the only alteration of the preseason schedule being the already-canceled Hall of Fame game. The decision comes in the teeth of significant upswings in COVID-19 infections in NFL-hosting states of Texas, California, Florida and Arizona.
NFL medical director Allen Sills cited a “very ambitious testing program” that is still in the works between the league and players union. As of now, the league and union are negotiating testing protocols and the overarching details of how training camp will work, including practices, workout and facility procedures and preseason games.
Multiple teams that spoke to Yahoo Sports earlier this week said that part or potentially even all of the preseason games could end up being cut in hopes of limiting coronavirus risks. However, with teams needing to test their protocols, it’s likely that only a portion of games are eliminated from the schedule. One league source familiar with the talks said the cut could go from four games to two — and with the games potentially spread out to give teams a preseason “bye” in between the two games.
Among the other developments in the call, team owners approved the covering of prime seating in the first six to eight rows in every stadium. Tarping similar to some recently used in soccer venues will be utilized to distance fans from the field — and also give teams added advertising space to defray the loss of ticket revenue. That move is also suggestive of the NFL green-lighting the inclusion of fans at games, although there was no guidance given on how that will work, suggesting that teams will be left to make fan determinations based on their local and state guidelines.
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