The NFL announced yesterday that all teams would hold their training camps at their own facilities, and there will be no joint practices allowed. Unfortunately, this was the right decision to make, in my opinion, even if it has a significant impact on the fan experience—perhaps an inevitability under any circumstances this year—and is a direct blow to our own work here, thanks to Alex Kozora’s highly-regarded training camp reports.
The fact of the matter is that transporting teams some distance to a completely separate facility is an unnecessary luxury that the NFL should not be indulging in right now. Teams who go away for training camp will be required to operate two facilities simultaneously and do so under strict measures to ensure the safety of everybody involved while Covid-19 persists in a deadly fashion.
Teams practice at their own facilities anyway. As a matter of fact, more than two thirds of the league have already been holding their training camps at their own facilities. Last year, all but 10 teams conducted training camp at their own facility. In 2000, all but 10 teams traveled to training camp, to illustrate how much has changed in the past two decades.
The fact that this only affects less than a third of the league makes it a lot easier to do, as well. And it’s hard to say that it’s an inconvenience, since it’s not. It’s actually an inconvenience to move shop and transport dozens and dozens of players, personnel, and coaches hours away to separate living facilities.
Understand that I am in no way saying or suggesting that teams shouldn’t travel for training camp, in general terms. However, I understand entirely the league’s reasoning behind requiring that teams stay at home during this time.
Team facilities offer a much more controlled environment, and make it easier to provide social distancing, including the obvious fact that nobody lives at the team facilities the way perhaps hundreds of people would have to at Saint Vincent College, in dormitories, two to a room in many cases.
This is a blow to the Latrobe economy; however, I trust that they will be taken care of. Expect that the Steelers as an organization and many players and coaches will personally make donations on behalf of local businesses that will be affected by this.
And know that if you are a fan who regularly makes the trek to Latrobe, and you are in a position to do so—or even if you have never been to Latrobe—you can help these local businesses by donating to them or purchasing gift certificates, or simply buying their products if possible. At restaurants, you can buy food for the owners if you really want to.
The Steelers have a tight relationship with Saint Vincent College and the Latrobe community that spans over half a century. It is unfortunate to say the least that that relationship will be interrupted in 2020. But it’s not a severed tie by any means, and there are things even we as fans can do to help the community that will suffer a further economic hardship because of this.