The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect almost every facet of life and, for the NFL, another change in policy has come as a result.
The league on Tuesday informed its 32 clubs that training camps will be conducted only at team facilities this season, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported.
In addition, there will be no joint team practices as stated in the memo from Commissioner Roger Goodell, obtained by NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The only exception for training camp location is if "a club can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of a joint NFL-NFLPA medical task force, that it would not be feasible to conduct at their club facility," per the memo.
Neither decision is expected to extend to the 2021 offseason and is just for the upcoming training camps in 2020.
"We believe that each of these steps will enhance our ability to protect the health and safety of players and your football staffs and are consistent with a sound approach to risk management in the current environment," Goodell said in the memo.
"The NFLPA was strongly in favor of these two decisions, which were made to limit exposure risks by avoiding the need for clubs to clean and maintain two facilities, by limiting the need for players and club staffs to travel to another location (sometimes located at a considerable distance from the home facility), and by limiting travel and contact between players on different clubs in the context of joint practices. These steps are being taken for the 2020 preseason to address the current conditions and are not expected to be in place in 2021."
This directive removes the possibility of teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers (St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania), Dallas Cowboys (Oxnard, California), Indianapolis Colts (Westfield, Indiana), and others from traveling to remote sites to hold their training camps. Typically, these teams would hold their camps at such sites before finishing preseason preparations at their facilities and conducting regular-season practices at those same facilities.
Often, operating training camp at remote sites opens possibilities for better fan access and interaction, a larger footprint for teams whose headquarters exist in confined metropolitan spaces and more fields to work on. The existence of additional field space allows teams to spread out their expanded, 90-man rosters for better work opportunities with each practice, drill and repetition. Some remote locations also provide teams with easily accessible lodging to keep the entire operation relatively contained and focused on the task at hand.
None of this is unachievable from a team facility; it just boils down to the preference of each team. The Cowboys have a fantastic, state-of-the-art facility in Frisco, Texas, that will work just fine for the team. They just won't get to interact with their Southern California fan base.
With player and organizational safety at the forefront of most planning efforts amid the pandemic, fan interaction and access will have to be set aside for a period in which it wasn't likely many fans were going to be able to attend anyway. While restrictions on fan attendance are yet to be known, forcing teams to centralize at their facilities allows the clubs to better prepare and ensure the safest environment for their players as they work toward gainful employment in the NFL in 2020.