There was a time when the biggest concern among NFL coaches was players showing up in shape for training camp.
Now, they have to navigate the tumultuous waters of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
This means following guidelines for social distancing during practice and not being able to play preseason games.
Nonetheless, Ravens coach John Harbaugh is taking these obstacles in stride.
“I don’t think it’s any big challenge in a sense that it’s different than what anybody else has to deal with," Harbaugh said. "If you look at things that are going on in our world right now, in our country, in terms of the new normal, in terms of the way we live and deal with this stuff – whether it’s grocery shopping, or how we get gas and all of that, you have to figure it out and find a way to do things a little bit differently.
"It’s been challenging, but it’s been kind of fun, in a lot of ways."
NFL teams are dealing with strict guidelines to ensure players are able to get acclimated after all of the offseason activities for were canceled.
First, they have to take several tests to ensure they do not have the coronavirus. Beginning Aug. 3, the players begin eight days of strength and conditioning. Coaches are also allowed to conduct walk-throughs over this period.
Players can formally take the practice field without pads (helmets and shells are allowed) on Aug. 12, but Harbaugh is still waiting for more guidance.
"We’re still getting the memos and the emails about the way practice needs to be organized and structured, and the timing of when guys report and when they’re eligible to practice. Strength and condition, or walk-through, or how many minutes each group can do that," he said. "It’s really every single day is a standalone day, in terms of what every different player is permitted to do, kind of. We’ve been really working hard at that."
Teams will also have a tougher time evaluating players because there are no preseason games. Their first action will be the regular-season opener.
Once again, Harbaugh and the Ravens are ready to make the necessary adjustments.
"The decisions will be made once we put the pads on and we start competing along those lines, and you can see how well it transfers to just execution and play-by-play situations," he said. "Not having the [preseason] games is definitely … Having the games would be a plus. It would help us make that evaluation, but we can make the evaluation based on what we have, and that’s just what we’ll have to do. I’m looking forward to seeing those guys in action.”