NFL will have unified start to training camp with fans' expected return

An amalgamated start to NFL training camps will coincide with the expected return of fans to camps this summer, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday.

In a first for the league, clubs will begin training camp in unison with 29 squads set to report on Tuesday, July 27 -- which is 47 days prior to Sunday of Week 1 of the regular season, as allowed by the collective bargaining agreement. Plans for fan events and league-wide practices are set to follow on Saturday, July 31, Pelissero added.

Also sure to follow will be myriad fans, as the league told teams Tuesday it expects spectators to return to training camps -- subject to state and local COVID-19 guidelines -- according to Peter O'Reilly, the NFL's executive vice president of club business and league events.

While the vast majority of teams will start their training camps together on July 27, the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers are eligible to report as early as July 21, as those are the teams squaring off in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 5. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can also report as early as July 24 due to them playing in the regular-season opener on Sept. 9. Thusly, the July 24 start date fits in the aforementioned CBA window. Tampa Bay will play Dallas in the opener.

The NFL is still finalizing protocols with the NFL Players Association, O'Reilly said, and camps are likely to look different in terms of fans' proximity to players and the previously usual standards of getting autographs, photos, etc.

Currently, 30 of 32 teams have obtained approval to open their stadiums at 100 percent approval, NFL Network's Judy Battista reported, via O'Reilly. The remaining teams seeking approval are the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, who O'Reilly said "both have a clear path."

Going forward, rules pertaining to face coverings and vaccinations will be determined by teams in conjunction with state and local guidelines. However, as 100 percent capacity is expected at stadiums, covered seats and pod seating will be gone.

The dates are set for training camps to commence and fans are expected to be there. It's another step to a feeling of normalcy for the NFL, its players and its fans.

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