If the NFL has a plan for effectively playing the 2020 season, the NFL is doing a very good job of keeping it quiet.
Details have been scarce. Beyond a memo sent four weeks ago to all teams regarding the three-tiered protocol for facility and stadium access (a protocol that the NFL Players Association quickly said it hadn’t endorsed), teams haven’t gotten much guidance. In recent days, far more details have emerged regarding things the union wants to do this season, several of which concern the folks responsible for putting football teams on the field for games that count.
One head coach has expressed misgivings about moving forward so quickly at a time when the pandemic has created so much uncertainty. “The worst thing that happened,” the coach said, “was the draft was a success, so the Commissioner thinks he’ll be right on moving ahead toward the season.”
Exacerbating the concern is the lack of information, a vacuum that currently is being filled by news of requests from players that will serve only to make a coach’s job harder, from no mandatory hotel stays during camp to no 11-on-11 activities in practice. If the league agrees to ditch 11-on-11 activities and if that extends to walk-through practices, coaches will lose a valuable teaching tool. This will require coaches to teach in other ways. The sooner they know whether that will happen, the more time they’ll have to strategize.
Currently, they don’t know much.
“I would love to be told what we can and can’t do,” the coach said, “so we can plan and figure things out. . . . When the league office sets boundaries, they just think you magically know what to do.”
A General Manager from a different team expressed concern about reduced rosters for training camp, explaining that the easiest way to accommodate 90 players safely would be to practice at the stadium, which has multiple locker rooms. “It’s inevitable players will get it,” the G.M. said of the virus, “the key is to have a strong bullpen.”
The G.M. echoed the concern that the league isn’t giving enough information to teams.
“The communication from the league has been virtually nonexistent,” the G.M. said. “Most head coaches and General Managers get info from [PFT] or Twitter.”
As the post-July 4 push toward training camp begins, the people running the league should heed these concerns and involve coaches and General Managers in the process of creating the rules and, more importantly, letting them know what the rules will be, so that they can figure out how best to get their football teams ready to play in September. Otherwise, the football that we get, if we get football, may not be football that’s very good.