While there have been some necessary and unavoidable alterations to the process, by and large the National Football League has gotten on with business as usual this offseason—and even hammered out a new 11-year Collective Bargaining Agreement along the way. The new league year started on-time. Free agency started on-time. They held the NFL Draft on-time. All of this through social distancing amid a pandemic.
However, we are now past the point at which everything can be done remotely. There is no social distancing in practice on a football field. OTAs should be starting up in a couple of weeks, but we know that’s not going to happen, and probably won’t happen at all.
The most significant benchmark, though, is the start of training camp, at the end of July and into early August. That’s still about three months away, and a lot can happen between now and then, but what won’t happen is there being a vaccine for Covid-19.
That leaves us with uncertainty and only educated guesses as to the timeline for this year in terms of actual football. Most in the league have tried to be optimistic, and that includes Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, who was asked about his thoughts on whether or not there would be a season when he was on WDVE last week.
It’s hard to say, only because we’re never going to minimize the situation that not only the United States but the world is in. We can only be optimistic that we will be able to have some type of season. Fortunately, we’re not worried—well, we’re worried about it constantly, but we have until August. My hope is that the Penguins get to finish their season. My hope is that the Pirates get to start their season. And when you get to football, at least we have some time to hopefully have the world get in order so that people are comfortable in doing this. But we’re going to approach it as if we are going to have a season. What I try to remind folks is, we went through this draft. Again, I wasn’t a proponent of it when we first talked about it, but we did get through it, it was a successful event, so I think if we continue to approach our business as if it will happen, while not ignoring what’s going on around us in the world, I think we all will hopefully have a good end to all this.
Of course, Colbert doesn’t know any more than any other head coach or general manager about how realistic a timeline is that sees teams return to business as usual in time for training camp. We don’t know. All we can do is wait, and listen to the experts, and find out.