Now that the NFL and NFL Players association came up with a last-minute agreement, it’s time for teams to start officially preparing for training camp. The start of the season is just seven weeks away, and some players haven’t even met their new coaching staff yet.
In other words, there is no time to waste for each NFL team as they try to fast-track the offseason to get their team in playing shape by Week 1. It’s a near-impossible task for most coaches, so expect a lot of sloppy football in September and maybe even going into October.
As fast as coaches may want to ramp up intensity at practice, the new rule changes made to the Collective Bargaining Agreement in response to the pandemic have strict guidelines on how training camp will proceed. Players fought for a slow ramp-up period, because the last time they had a shortened offseason—the lockout of 2011—the league saw a significant increase in injuries.
So here’s the basic outline of how training camp will work for the Detroit Lions and every other team that is opening the season on Sunday, September 13. (As per an NFL memo leaked by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero)
By July 28 - Roster cutdown to 80 or split squad
By July 28, the mandatory reporting date for veterans, the team must pick one of two options: cut their roster down to 80 players, or keep 90 and split the roster into two “split squads.” The split squads will consist of rookies and first-year players in one group and veterans in the other group. These two groups must be separate at all times, whether that means having a second location for practices or splitting the squads into morning and afternoon teams.
July 28th-31st - COVID Testing
Players will be tested daily and will not be allowed into the building during this portion. Teams may have virtual meetings during this time.
August 1-2 - Physicals
Finally, team personnel will be able to perform physicals on players, after not being able to do so in-facility since the start of the pandemic.
August 3-11 - Strength and conditioning only
August 8 - Day off
Teams will be permitted to have 60 minutes of weight room time and 60 minutes of on-field conditioning per day. Only strength and conditioning coaches are allowed to participate in those sessions.
In addition, teams will be permitted to perform walkthroughs for 60 minutes on the first four days, and 75 minutes in the final four days.
August 12-16 - Ramp up period
Practices begin with a length of 90 minutes and increase by a maximum of 15 minutes per day (maximum total is 120 minutes).
Aug. 12-13: Phase 2 — Helmets and protected shirts permitted
Aug 14, 16: Non-padded practice. No live contact permitted
Aug 15: Day off
August 16 - Teams must cut their roster from 90 to 80
Teams that chose the split-squad option must make cuts down to get their roster to 80 players. Following those transactions, the entire team can practice together again.
August 17 - September 6 - Contact practices
Fully padded practices are allowed with a maximum for 14 full-contact practices during this 21-day interval.
So while training camp will officially be underway starting on Tuesday, we won’t see the traditional training camp padded practices for three more weeks.