Here's what it's like to be one of the first NFL teams opening training camp amid COVID-19
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With 2020 poised to be the most unusual NFL season in years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no shortage of uncertainties for teams to navigate.
But someone has to be the first to trudge through that wilderness, and one of the first teams to do so is the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, who by nature of their training camp schedule have been tasked with getting their organization “COVID safe” without the luxury of watching other NFL teams do it, too.
The Chiefs and the Houston Texans were the first clubs to have rookies scheduled to report on Monday. They were also among the first teams to have their IDER (Infectious Disease Emergency Response) plan approved by the NFLPA over the weekend.
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As of Monday afternoon, seven teams had their IDER plans approved, a source told Yahoo Sports. This is a critical step for those hoping for a return to football, since IDERs outline the steps and procedures teams will take if an outbreak occurs within the building. Additionally, proposals are currently being exchanged between the union and the league as both sides continue to hammer out issues like health and safety protocols, testing and opt outs so full squads can report. The league-wide report date for all non-rookies, quarterbacks and injured players is July 28.
In the meantime, teams like the Chiefs and Texans are tasked with getting their season preparations started, a process that every team begins by acclimating their rookies. In that regard, the Chiefs have also taken an important step by reaching verbal agreements with all six of their draft selections, a source told Yahoo Sports.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who spoke on a Zoom conference call with local reporters on Monday, outlined what those rookies can expect when they arrive. Reid began by acknowledging the efforts of head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder and director of team operations Mitch Reynolds.
“They have done a phenomenal job of setting everything up to try to be COVID safe the best we possibly can,” Reid said. “So that’s where we start; we’re starting with a couple days of [COVID] testing for the players; they do back-to-back tests.”
Starting Wednesday, Reid said, rookies will take their physicals, get their equipment sorted out and fulfill media obligations.
“There are a couple days for that; that takes you into four days here,” Reid said. “And then there’s a point where we’re going to be able to have the guys [weight]lift and meet with them and do a potential walkthrough with them. That’s kind of how that sets up, and that goes for an extended period of time.”
Reid indicated he was pleased with the team’s setup for training camp, which will be held at the Chiefs’ team facility instead of at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri, where camp is typically held.
“We’re going to do everything out of the stadium,” Reid said. “The way they’ve set it up, we could have a ton of people social distanced, more than we have with our football team. They’ve got it all set up with monitors and everything else. Each media room is set up. They’ve split Arrowhead Stadium in half so on one half, the defense is on one side and the offense is on the other side. I mean, it’s really something to watch.”
As for COVID testing, a key issue as other leagues have returned to play, Reid noted that players will be tested “often” and added that players and staff with access to the building will also be tasked with making sure they take precautions when they’re with and away from the team.
Yahoo Sports confirmed a Pro Football Talk report of the NFL and the NFLPA reaching an agreement on daily testing for players.
“Listen, there’s a responsibility for coaches and players to make sure we handle ourselves right when we’re away from it,” Reid said. “We’re still going to keep as much social distancing when we can, and honestly, it’s a contact sport, so … when we’re not in contact, we’re going to keep our social distance when we’re not playing, and we have all that set up. We’re going to have our masks set up and wash our hands and do all those fundamental things. We’re going to stay on top of that.”
Asked when he expects his team to be on the field for something resembling a practice, Reid said it could be at least 10 days as players have to lift weights and attend meetings and possibly go through walkthroughs first.
“They’re working through this, but it will be about eight days, which ends up being about 10 with days off,” Reid said. “So that’s what we know at this point, and it seems like a pretty solid plan to allow the guys to ramp up and get themselves where they need to be.”
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