The NFL is fast approaching a point where the offseason workout programs will not be able to happen in person. That could result in an earlier start to training camp, according to SI’s Albert Breer.
Players and coaches have been meeting through virtual means due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Teams have been able to begin re-opening their facilities over the past month, but it was exclusively for non-coaching front office employees. Coaches were allowed to start returning last week, but there remain limits on total number of employees allowed in the building.
The players’ situation is a different story. As a unionized group, any changes to working conditions and terms of employment are mandatory subjects of bargaining. The two sides negotiated the current virtual situation, and are in the process of negotiating next steps.
The collective bargaining agreement states that teams can report 47 days before their first regular season game — July 28th for most teams. Breer reported that the joint committee on health and safety has recommended an acclimation period before camp due to the lack of in-person workout programs this spring. The CBA includes a five-day acclimation period, but the thought is players will need more time.
Breer brought up a couple options that remain at least on the radar. One option is canceling the first week of preseason games to build the acclimation period into the existing bargained start date. The other option that Breer says some teams support is moving the season back to an October start date. He said the league hasn’t been reception to that, but there is flexibility built into the regular season schedule and for potentially moving back the Super Bowl if need be.
The two sides have not started to talk about financial ramifications of the coming season. A delayed start date could impact that, but more importantly, a season with no or limited fans in attendance also impacts the bottom line. The NFL has a negotiated cap and revenue share in place, which limits potential changes this year. How the two sides approach 2021 will likely be what moves this thing along or creates a delay.