By Arnie Leshin
No need to pass, no need to run, just more of an update on the National Football League tying its pieces together.
At least it is making progress, from the most different college draft it has ever conducted, to the release of a full seasonal schedule, to taking care of more business after league commissioner Roger Goodell gave the 32 teams the go-ahead for limited re openings on Tuesday as long as state and local municipalities allow them.
Coaching staffs and all players except those undergoing injury rehabilitation are barred from the facilities in the first phase of the league’s plans.
States like California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Washington remain under heavy restriction that immediately leaves a dozen franchises unable to use their facilities.
Then there’s the Raiders, no longer based in Oakland but heading to Las Vegas for the upcoming season, still have their training complex in Alameda, Calif. As for the Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans, have chosen not to reopen Tuesday.
The Cincinnati Bengals, with the number one draft pick in LSU All-America and HeismanTrophy winner, quarterback Joe Burrow, expects to reopen Wednesday, while the Jacksonville Jaguars have penciled in May 26and the Denver Broncos also on target for next week.
Among the teams taking advantage of using their buildings on the first day are the Atlanta Falcons, the Arizona Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Texans, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Said an Indy official: “We’ve spent the entire quarantine period preparing to reopen and intend to do so.”
This will all be very gradual and deliberate. There are steps of course being taken to make sure that everything is in compliance with state and local regulations, as well as NFL and CDC guidelines. This means that primarily employees must be in their offices to do their jobs, and people who need to access files that are only at the office, as well as maintenance workers, trainers, and technology workers.
These people will have their temperatures taken when leaving the building and must wear personal protective equipment.The Colts for instance have set up one-way hallways with arrows on the carpet pointing to the right direction, and there will be limits on how many people can be in rooms at the same time.
“We must be realistic about a full return to the training complex,” said Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich. “It’s about the guys who have been hurt, who have been coming into the building, keep coming in and rehabbing and doing their job.”
Other than that, as soon as more players can get in the building, it will be written in as a little bit of lost time.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones took part in an owner’s conference call from his team’s practice facility, The Star. He said about two dozen staffers were present at the complex.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are doing a soft reopening Tuesday mainly for medical personnel and rehabbing players. They expect to ramp up use of their facility next week under league guidelines. As for the Arizona reopening, only essential staffers will be involved, far fewer than the 75 allowed at the facility.
Then there’s the Chiefs. They also opted for a soft opening, as did the Falcons, with only about 15 people at their complex Tuesday, but numbers are expected to increase over the next week. Atlanta trains in Flowery Branch, Ga., about 47 miles from its downtown Atlanta Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Falcons’ President Rich McKay, who is also co-chairman of the league’s powerful committee, said that the fact that some teams can get in today with limited staff in non-football functions, we didn’t think in any way, shape or form that created a competitive balance issue.
Added McKay, there’s only one entrance to come in and out of. There’s all the social distancing to be compiled with. Temperature are checked at the door and you are asked a series of questions. Everyone must put gloves on and wear a mask the entire time unless they are alone in a closed office.
Houston sent fewer than 10 people to its facility and said it is considering this to be Phase Zero, and will lead in to Phase I, which will bring in about 70 to 75 people in the future. Minnesota is one of those teams to delay its return to its facility. Star receiver Adam Thielen noted that it’s important not to rush things.
Still no official word from the New York Jets and Giants, both who call Metro Life stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. their home field. Both have their respective facilities in order, so now it’s up to them to decide on when to report.
Goodell has extended virtual workouts for teams through most of June. All of the clubs normally would be having organized team activities, which are voluntary, at this time, but these are not normal times due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On, and new Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady worked out with teammates at a local high school Tuesday morning.
But in the long run the consensus is the phrase that we want to walk, then jog, then run as we talk about how we reopen our facilities. The kickoffs will hopefully follow.