COVID-19: Where things stand with the NFL and training camps

Seth Everett

While COVID-19 surges in spots outside of the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, the NFL announced that training camps, including the New York Jets, will open on time. The Jets are currently scheduled to open camp in Florham Park no later than July 28.

Still, the preseason has been impacted by the pandemic. The annual Hall of Fame Game, scheduled for August 8 between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers has been canceled. There has been talk that the league will shorten this year’s pre-season games but nothing official has been announced. The theory behind canceling one or more preseason games could allow for teams to focus on making sure both players and coaches are healthy for the regular season.

The league acknowledged Thursday that some players have tested positive but refuses to provide the media with any numbers or positive tests or the severity on anyone who has tested positive.

NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allan Sills told reporters Thursday that players who organized group workouts with teammates like Jets quarterback Sam Darnold did in Florida with Jets receivers were not subject to NFL discipline because the workouts were on their own and away from team facilities. The NFL Players Association did advise players to avoid such workouts going forward, and the league stated they were in agreement with the union on this subject.

Wednesday Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke exclusively to SportsIllustrated.com’s Jets Country reporter Kristian Dyer and said he doesn’t think there is a specific number that the country needs to hit to ensure that both college and pro football could go on without any interruption. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told Dyer its impossible to call the viability of the 2020 season at this point.

Reaction to the cancellation of the Hall of Fame game but still planning on opening training camps on time was perplexing. Jason Smith, national radio host on FOX Sports Radio immediately said on Twitter, “NFL cancels H.O.F. game but says camps will open on time. Um...”

COVID-19 has been surging in parts of the country, notably Florida, Arizona, and Texas. Meanwhile, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy reported that 1,182 patients were currently hospitalized from the coronavirus as of Wednesday night, down slightly after two days of increases that state officials said they were tracking closely. Nearby New York state has had similar success in an overall reduction of cases.

“We’re setting up a very ambitious testing program, ‘' Sills told reporters after reporting to the NFL owners of their progress preparing for training camp. “One that will attempt to keep everyone in the team environment as safe as possible. That includes not just players, but coaches, staff, and everyone who will be together.”

The NFL also said Thursday that they are considering provisions on expanding the practice squad to allow for replacement players should there be positive cases in the midst of the season. The league said they are consulting with local medical offices, the federal Centers for Disease Control, and the White House Task Force on the coronavirus, and will base all future decisions regarding this upcoming season after consultation with those agencies. 

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