With several key dates in the NFL offseason approaching, Green Bay Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy says “time is no longer on our side” when it comes to making some critical decisions.
Writing in his monthly Take 5 column on the Packers website that was posted Saturday, Murphy said that when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of American team sports in the second week in March, the NFL “had the benefit of time.”
“Unlike professional basketball, hockey and baseball teams who were either in the middle of their seasons or about to start, we were in the beginning of our offseason,” Murphy added. “NFL teams were able to handle free agency, the draft and their entire offseason programs virtually. We’ve made decisions along the way, but the major ones we’ve been able to put off until we have more information. With so much uncertainty, it has made sense that we have not made decisions until we absolutely have to. As we near the start of training camp, though (rookies will start practice on July 21 and veterans on the 28th), time is no longer on our side.”
Among the most pressing issues in the pipeline is that of preseason games. According to reports late last week, NFL Players Association player representatives agreed unanimously on a conference call to eliminate all preseason games in 2020. Reports surfaced last Wednesday that the NFL decided to cut the number of preseason games this season from four to two, though the NFLPA has yet to sign off on that deal.
Among the other issues that Murphy noted as still to be determined are whether any fans will be allowed to attend games (and the impact that will have on season-ticket holders), safety protocols inside stadiums, and the number of players teams can carry on the practice squad. Murphy said the league is considering an increase in the number of practice-squad players allowed each team, “to give teams more roster flexibility during the pandemic.”
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Saturday morning that the NFL has submitted to teams the protocols teams are expected to adhere to when dealing with COVID-19 during training camp and the preseason.
The protocols reportedly include what to do when a player tests positive, changes to media access (including no in-person interviews until further notice), and enforcement measures for non-compliance.
“Should a club employee or other member of the club’s staff knowingly and materially fail to follow these protocols, they will be subject to discipline,” the protocols explain, according to Pelissero.