Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, most everything remains fluid, including the NFL's plans for operations.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh voiced his concerns with the NFL's recently released protocols and requirements for social distancing when players return to team facilities for training camp, calling the expectations "humanly impossible" during a Thursday radio interview.
"We're going to do everything we can do," Harbaugh continued. "We're going to space, we're going to have masks. But, you know, it's a communication sport. We have to be able to communicate with each other in person. We have to practice."
The league "has made very clear they are letting the science and data drive their decision-making," NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Friday on NFL NOW. Like the data that is constantly being updated with each passing day, everything remains in flux, meaning some protocols could change in the weeks to come. Questions like Harbaugh's about the viability of operating under such requirements are to be expected, especially in a game that is very much fixed in its preseason preparation process.
Teams might be forced to adapt, though, which could mean the acquisition of trailers for additional meeting space that will meet social distancing standards set by the league, according to Pelissero, who said "there are some teams that simply don't have a second locker room to spread guys out by six feet." Pelissero also noted the psychological impact of being reminded to "stay away from everyone including your teammates" all week only to play a contact sport for three hours on Sunday.
"Well as another head coach told me, you've got other things here," Pelissero continued. "When you talk about crunching things down, you didn't have spring practices. Now you have the possibility of not having as much practice, as much padded time through the course of August. As that head coach put it, how are you going to pick your team?
"There's pro scouting departments that, looking at the possibility of shrinking the preseason, say how are we going to evaluate other rosters when it comes to getting to the waiver process? There are a ton of questions."
In-person participation in any team meetings or practices depends first, above all, on passing a daily COVID-19 test. In order to properly equip and fulfill such testing needs, the league will have to select one of three bids from companies to "run that entire COVID-19 apparatus, which is a massive and massively expensive endeavor," Pelissero said.
The league continues forward toward a training camp start date that should fall near traditional scheduling. Until then, its 32 clubs will comply with new protocols and directives while also understanding that, much like daily life, things are subject to change.