With league officials moving methodically toward a 2020 season, the next potential challenge for teams is finding alternative NFL training camps if state and local guidelines prohibit a traditional location.
When will NFL training camps open? It’s not too early to look at how the 2020 NFL season will be run in this era of COVID-19. The NFL is still working under the assumption that NFL training camps will open in mid-July, but the locations may be different than in previous years. With the state of California continuing to operate under shut-down rules prohibiting large gatherings–and likely to do so until the end of summer–it will be likely that the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams (who traditionally train at University of California, Irvine), Los Angeles Chargers (who traditionally train in Costa Mesa) and the Las Vegas Raiders (who plan on a Napa training camp) will need to find alternative training camp sites.
For the 49ers, the search is already underway, according to GM John Lynch. Speaking on a 49ers podcast, Lynch says the team will be watching
“We’re trying to prepare ourselves for just about anything,” Lynch said. “I wish I could tell you, ‘Here’s how it’s going to go.’ No one knows that right now, and we’re all kind of eagerly awaiting information.”
“You always have to be prepared for everything,” Lynch said. “And I think this pandemic that we’re going through, there’s so much unknown. And it changes day to day, so, yes, you have to prepare for everything. We’re in great talks with our state and local officials, trying to learn as much as we can. But you have to prepare for everything, the unknowns.”
If Lynch and his fellow GMs need to confront the issue, there are some alternatives out there. The Greenbrier in West Virginian and the University of Florida are already public in their offer of facilities for NFL teams. In the case of The Greenbrier, the Greenbrier Sports Performance Center has a history of hosting NFL training camps (New Orleans Saints, 2014-16; Houston Texans, 2017-18) and is available: “No plans are confirmed at this point, but we are hopeful to have NFL teams at The Greenbrier again this summer,” [Greenbrier public relations manager Cam ] Huffman wrote in an email to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Similarly, Gov. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and University of Florida Scott Stricklin made a pitch for teams to train on the UF campus, with Stricklin issuing the following release:
“Our priority is the well-being of Gator student-athletes, staff and fans, and we are working toward the day when we can once again engage with those groups safely on campus. Following Governor DeSantis’ comment yesterday inviting other pro teams to participate in our state, I reached out to remind him that UF and Gainesville have world class health care facilities, an iconic football stadium, a state-of-the-art basketball arena and a brand-new baseball ballpark within two hours of cities with professional franchises. We’ve been receiving excellent guidance from our state and health care officials, and when those groups believe it is safe to host college and pro sporting events in Florida, we will be prepared to do so.”
To be clear, the California teams are not the only ones whose training camps may be affected by the coronavirus pandemic: we may see the New York and Seattle Seahawks impacted as well.
Photo of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium courtesy University of Florida.
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