As the calendar quickly approaches June, the NFL remains optimistic that the 2020 season will start on time amid the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, recent reports suggest on-field workouts could be coming in the near future.
Per Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, NFL head coaches could be allowed to return to team facilities next week, paving the road for potential full-squad minicamps as early as mid-June. This would be a significant stepping stone as the league continues to push forward with intentions of starting the regular season on time in early September.
Obstacles still remain, however, with several states still employing strict stay-at-home guidelines. Among those, Washington has started to ease restrictions in some counties. But governor Jay Inslee hasn't given a green light for King County to move into phase two of re-opening, which has prevented the Seahawks from re-opening their facility.
Based on a recent phasing plan revealed by Inslee to begin opening the state, the best case scenario would be gatherings of 50-plus people in by mid-July. Other states such as California and New Jersey, among several others, will remain cautious pulling back restrictions.
This is problematic for NFL teams, as training camps would include 90 players, coaches, training staff, and other essential personnel. While it's unclear how things will look in late July, the current climate casts doubt that every state with an NFL team will allow 150 or more people to gather for football practice at that time.
With that said, there have been some positive developments in California and New Jersey in recent days.
Last week, California governor Gavin Newsom indicated sports could return sometime next month with “modifications and very prescriptive conditions.” On Tuesday, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy permitted professional sports teams in the state to conduct training camps.
As a source told Robinson, Newsom may hold the biggest key to whether or not the league can execute its suddenly ambitious plans.
“If California is open for [team] operations soon, minicamps can still happen in June - probably late June, I’d think - but maybe even mid-June,” the source said.
If Inslee, Newsom, and a handful of other state leaders sign off on allowing team operations to resume in the near future, this would give NFL officials the flexibility to offer teams the chance to host minicamps without having to worry about equity issues.
But what if Inslee doesn't give the Seahawks clearance to start opening up their facility? There's still a possibility stay-at-home restrictions could be extended in King County for a bit longer while other counties in the state progress forward.
Under such circumstances, Seattle may need to look into alternate options for conducting minicamp and potentially training camp in another location.
Before opening the VMAC in Renton back in 2008, the Seahawks used to hold camp at Eastern Washington University from 1997 to 2006. With Spokane County currently in phase two of re-opening, returning there temporarily to conduct offseason work could be a realistic option.
Going outside of Washington also remains a possibility, though the logistics would be far more complicated exploring Idaho, Montana, Utah, and other neighboring states. Still, all considerations need to be left on the table during these unprecedented times.
All signs continue to point towards the NFL season kicking off without a delay. As Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told CNBC on Tuesday, he "definitely" thinks there will be an NFL season and recent statements from Newsom and Murphy provide a glimmer of hope training camps will be able to start on time for all 32 teams.
However, much work remains left to be done in coming weeks as the league and players association continue to discuss how football can return to action safely and several states such as Washington consider whether or not professional sports can re-open for business.