Normally, NFL training camps don’t begin until the end of July.
However, this offseason has been anything but normal due to COVID-19, so the NFL could change up some things to ensure camps are conducted in as safe of a manner as possible.
According to Albert Breer of MMQB, the NFL could start training camps as soon as mid-July to give players a chance to get back in football shape and more acclimated to their environment, something that can no longer be taken for granted after the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, that could be tricky to pull off due to the NFL’s CBA, as Breer writes:
The new CBA dictates that teams can report 47 days before their first regular season game (a change from the old 14-day rule), meaning the report date for most teams would be July 28. Meanwhile, the joint committee on health and safety is recommending an acclimation period before camp, given the lack of football activity these guys have had, of at least a week or two (and up to three). The good news is, the new CBA builds in a five-day acclimation period. The bad news is players may need more than that under these unique circumstances. So the league has floated the idea of an earlier report date closer to the middle of July, to give players a better chance to get their feet underneath them.
Typically, teams report to their facilities for training camp a few days before the first camp practice. Having a full week or two would be very beneficial in a variety of ways.
Perhaps the most important is something we’re already seeing play out in college football with several programs. Instead of having every player report in the same week, several programs are instead welcoming large groups of players over the course of several weeks. This allows the school to properly test everyone and get results back before the next group arrives, which helps prevent an outbreak of the virus from happening within the team.
If everyone is reporting at once, the risk of an outbreak that affects a large portion of the roster goes up. That’s why having a period of 1-2 weeks in which several groups of players are brought back could help keep the virus from spread amongst an NFL team.
Plus, training camps opening sooner could be very beneficial to teams like the Bengals who have a lot of new players in key roles that have yet to really work with their new teammates, the biggest of which being No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow. The sooner he’s in Cincinnati working with his teammates, the better.