Despite the Coronavirus pandemic still ongoing in the United States, the NFL is actively but slowly trying to restart league operations. The first phase of this process was kicked off in May, when up to 75 employees per team — none of them coaches and players, though — were granted a return to facilities if allowed to do so under local regulations. The second phase is underway since earlier this week, meanwhile, and allows clubs to reopen ticket offices, retail shops and other customer-facing facilities.
The big question for the time being, however, is when coaching staffs and players are allowed to return.
In a memo sent to the league’s 32 franchises on May 29, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stated that he remains hopeful that “next week clubs will be permitted to include members of their coaching staffs among the employees permitted to resume work in the club facility” — a return therefore seems to be imminent, even though state regulations will play a major role in this and no announcements have been made so far over the course of this week. Still, it seems likely that coaches will return to work sooner rather than later.
The status of the league’s more than 2,800 active players is a different story, though. Representatives from both the NFL and the NFL Players Association reportedly remain in discussions about scheduling a return, but it seems as if a solution is not in sight just yet: according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter earlier on Wednesday, the expectation is that “the next time NFL players show up at teams’ training facilities will be for training camp, whenever that begins.”
Despite some recent developments, this outcome would not be a surprise. While some teams, including the New England Patriots, have officially been allowed by their respective state governments to resume practicing soon — June 6 in the Patriots’ case — others like the New York Jets have already wrapped up their virtual offseason work and will reportedly not conduct an in-person minicamp. Unless there is clarity on all fronts and a level playing field for all team, the NFL will likely push back return dates for key personnel.
Schefer’s report and the Jets canceling their minicamp is a sign that the league will not return to its usual preparation schedule before late July. And even then, circumstances could impact procedures and prevent a normal practice process.