Monday, June 29, 2020 / by Ken Couture
Despite COVID-19 concerns, the NFL informed club owners on Thursday the league is forging ahead with plans to start training camp on time and play a full, uninterrupted schedule that includes some level of fan participation.
For now, that means the Raiders will open training camp on July 28th at their practice facility in Henderson, with their season kicking off on September 13 at the Carolina Panthers. Their first regular-season game at Allegiant Stadium is scheduled to be played on September 21 against the New Orleans Saints.
Those plans were relayed to owners during a conference call conducted by the league in which the opening of training camp, the preseason and the regular season were discussed.
In a conference call with the media afterward, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated his message to owners that the plan right now is to “get ready for games at our stadiums and to engage our fans both in stadiums and through our media partners.”
While the the head of the NFL’s medical team, Dr. Allen Sills, concedes the league has not yet created an official testing, screening or treatment plan for COVID-19, he insists the league and the players association will have a jointly acceptable plan in place at the appropriate time.
It will be “one that will attempt to keep everyone in the team environment as safe as possible,” Dr. Sills said. “ That includes not only players, but also coaches, staff and everyone who will be together.”
Sills admits the NFL’s plan likely won’t eliminate risk entirely. However, he said the risk can be reduced with a sound plan that everyone diligently follows.
“This is where everyone in that team environment is going to share the same risks, but they’ll also share the same responsibilities with each other,” Dr. Sills said. “Which means that everyone is going to be dependent on every other member of that team environment, for doing the very best that they can to implement these measures and keep themselves and their household members as safe as possible throughout the course of the season.”
But don’t expect things to look or feel the same when the season begins. In fact, the NFL is already preparing for a much different-looking stadium experience when games officially kick off. That includes a six- to eight-row buffer zone at the lowest point of each stadium to create social distancing between fans and players.
While those rows will be kept vacant, the NFL will allow teams to cover the tarps with corporate signage to create revenue streams.
“There’s no requirement for the clubs to integrate advertising. It’s somewhat of an added benefit if there is an opportunity there,” said NFL Executive Vice President Renie Anderson. “There’s also an added opportunity to thank our frontline workers and to create brand messaging for the clubs as well.”
Asked on Thursday about such corporate signage appearing at Allegiant Stadium, a Raiders team official indicated no such plans have been made at this point.
said no decision on that has been made.
Still, the layout and look of Allegiant Stadium could look quite a bit different in the Raiders’ first year than originally expected. As might the attendance of fans, which is expected to be mandated by each team;s state, county and city regulations for mass gatherings due to COVID-19.
Thus, what might be the case in Miami might be significantly different compared to Los Angeles or Las Vegas.
Among other highlights from the NFL conference call with owners:
— The NFL is working with the players association and other groups to get everyone in the NFL to register to vote and vote. The league is also offering support to any player’s efforts to inspire voting registration and participation in local communities.
— The NFL and players association is talking through the possibility of a condensed preseason schedule and creating roster flexibility to deal with the potential unavailability of players who test positive for COVID-19 during the season.
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