According to the Covid-19 addendum to the Collective Bargaining Agreement for the 2020 season, today marks the first day during which teams are eligible to engage in a regular practice session, entering the ‘ramp-up’ phase laid out in the acclimation period of the agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA.
Up to this point, teams have only been engaging in strength and conditioning work and the weekly walkthrough, with traditional members of the coaching staff not permitted to be on the field with them giving them instructions.
That now changes. Players will be going through drills. They will be permitted to wear helmets, and shells, but full pads will still come later, as will live contact drills. Between August 12 and 16, there will be limitations on what type of practice teams can conduct. But it is, finally, genuine football practice, and that has been a long time coming.
On the first day of practices, teams will be restricted to only 90 minutes of practice, but can increase to 120 minutes, in 15-minute increments per day, and their total allotted daily time on the field, including walkthroughs, is three and a half hours (or 210 minutes, about the length of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai).
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, this has been an offseason like no other, which has affected seemingly every aspect of the sport. All Spring practices, from rookie minicamp to mandatory minicamp and the OTAs in between, were cancelled, and players were barred from even entering team facilities, unless they were rehabbing injuries.
It took months for the NFL and the NFLPA to put together protocols that would allow players to safely return to action, part of which was the further cancellation of the preseason in its entirety. The NFL wanted to cut it in half. The NFLPA stood its ground and argued that all exhibition games are an unnecessary risk under pandemic conditions.
The union has not updated the numbers in the past week, but according to their website, a total of 56 players have tested positive for Covid-19 since training camp began. This does not refer to players who were placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list, but specifically those who tested positive and were placed on the list.
While the league expected that there would be a relatively high number of positives, they were also hopeful that those numbers would subside, possibly even be eliminated. By and large, there have been few new additions to the reserve/Covid-19 list, although the Dolphins did just move Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard to the list.
Since the start of training camp, the Pittsburgh Steelers placed four players on the list. Three have come off—Arrion Springs, who was subsequently released; James Washington; and Justin Layne—while one player, Jaylen Samuels, remains.