Full team workouts have begun across the National Football League. Needless to say, this year, things don’t look the same as they usually do.
“Definitely not normal. I mean every day has been different. It’s chaos. We’re going to have to welcome chaos this year,” says Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn.
Masks are everywhere. The NFL has required face coverings inside any facility but many teams are having players wear them on outdoor practice fields, as well.
In the first two weeks of camp, players, coaches, medical and equipment staff will be tested every day, as well as undergo daily temperature screenings. After that, testing frequency depends on the positivity rate. If it’s below 5% testing drops to every other day. If it’s above 5% daily tests resume. Players who test positive will isolate and not be allowed back to team activities until he has at least two negative results.
So far, across the NFL there have been 21 reported positive tests, a relatively small number considering the volume of people involved with 32 teams.
“I went home last night and was really optimistic about the testing, the masks, the protocols we’re following, the distancing, I mean I felt really good. People are holding each other accountable,” says Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco.
Still, this season is going to be a constant struggle to stay ahead of a COVID curve that’s been tough to flatten.
“Reality hits hard and you know you just cannot let your guard down at any time,” says Teleso. “This is going to be 24/7 that we’re fighting this.”
Just look at what happened with the Miami Marlins. Within one week, more than half their roster tested positive for the novel coronavirus while other teams have had little to no trouble with a spread. The NFL is keeping a close eye on that situation, as well.
“I’ve talked to people in baseball that are in front of us as far as getting their season started,” says Telesco. “We talked about their protocols and what they’re doing on the field with their players and with their testing. It seems like everyone in sports can kind of rely on each other to get through this, talk about different ways to do things because we’re all looking for the best way to do it.”
Or, to update a classic football saying …
“Basically, you have two opponents this year: you have your schedule and you have COVID,” says Lynn. “Both game plans are equally important.”
Physical contact is at the very heart of football. Keeping your distance is something that can be done at practice but after the opening kickoff, there will be sweat and spit flying around. Players do have the ability to opt out of playing this year, something Telesco says he will support completely.
“You’re honest and say you cannot eliminate the risk. I wish we could, be we can’t,” says Telesco. “Our goal is to minimize it. There’s going to be some time on the field where obviously it’s very hard to physically distance but there are all the other hours off the field, whether it’s weight room, meetings, equipment room, training room that we can keep people physically distant.”
The NFL is just getting this started. After a full two weeks, we’ll start to see if they’ll be able to pull off any season at all.