The NFLPA has formally recommended that the NFL hold no preseason games this year. We have already covered this story, and also yesterday covered an additional recommendation that training camp rosters of no more than 80 total players be slowly integrated into a full group over time, beginning with groups of 20, then up to 40 after three weeks.
How can you prepare for an NFL season without playing any games, many ask. Now imagine preparing for games without even doing any 11-on-11 drills at all, throughout the entire year. This is yet another recommendation of the NFLPA that was reported on Saturday, in an effort to limit contact amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Of course, there are still ways of accomplishing football tasks without a full 11-on-11 scrimmage, and even under the most intense of circumstances, it never matches even a preseason game. There is never any true pressure on a quarterback, for example, which you can only simulate so much while protecting the man under center.
You can run line drills. You can run 7-on-7 drills, with receivers and defensive backs working against each other without a true pass rush. You can also work with limited blocking and a limited number of skill position players on the field. A pass rush can be simulated without defensive linemen, by a coach with a piece of equipment, for example.
Having 22 players on a practice field together is apparently something that goes a bit beyond what the NFLPA would prefer to accept. They also want to restrict activities during the later stages of a practice week and on days leading to travel for games.
The purpose of this is to try to ensure the accuracy and validity of Covid-19 tests. If you test negative on a Thursday night and then go through a full walkthrough on Friday, you could potentially have been exposed by the time you are set to play on Sunday.
The end result, assuming all or any of these recommendations are ultimately adopted by the NFL, will be a safer work environment for the players, which is crucial, but will also inevitably produce a much more sloppy product on the field.
Could we really be heading into a season in which there are no preseason games and no 11-on-11 drills? It would certainly be interesting to see how that works, and it might force coaches into rethinking how they work with their players. Full-unit cohesion and communication is important, for obvious reasons, so they will have to figure out ways to achieve this that may not be the norm under conventional conditions.