Due to the pandemic, NFL teams have been forced to make several precautions to protect against a potential outbreak in their team facilities. As pointed out by Detroit Lions team president Rod Wood, this includes redesigning the layout of several rooms to allow for social distancing, adding sanitation stations, and plenty of other preventative measures.
In order to allow for social distancing, the NFL and NFLPA agreed that team facilities shouldn’t be holding the 90 players that would normally be in the building for training camp. Accordingly, NFL teams had two options to prevent this: either cut the roster down to 80 players by Tuesday or split the 90-man squad in two and make sure both teams aren’t in the building at the same time.
Seeing as Tuesday’s deadline has passed and the Lions made no moves on the NFL’s official transaction list, it’s clear the Lions have chosen to go the split squad route.
According to an NFL memo leaked by Albert Breer, here’s how the split squad works:
“Group One will consist of rookies and first-year players and, at the Club’s election, may also include some or all quarterbacks and injured players who report to camp on July 23 under the “five-day rule.” If a quarterback or injured player is assigned to Group One, he must remain with Group One until the Club has reduced its roster to 80 players on or before August 16 and the split-squad requirement has ended. To be clear, players cannot alternate between Group One and Group Two.
Group Two will consist of all veteran players who report on July 28. One of the two groups of players may be present at the facility, including on the practice field, during the morning. The other group may be present during the afternoon. The two groups must remain completely separate from each other at all times. During the period that one group is at the facility, the other group may conduct virtual meetings away from the facility.”
In addition to these options, teams also have the choice to use a second facility to accommodate both groups simultaneously. So in the Lions’ case, they could use both the Allen Park facility and Ford Field to separate the two groups for the duration of the time they decide to keep the 90-man split into squads.
Obviously, this route has the benefit of allowing Detroit to evaluate all 90 players on their roster. They may also have a chance to take a better look at each of the players with smaller squads to analyze at a time. However, the drawback is that some of Detroit’s rookies won’t be able to gain chemistry with the veteran players until the team decides to make their cuts down to 80 players—a mandate that must happen by August 16, when the team begins fully-padded practices.
The Lions haven’t announced their decision to go split squad yet, so it’s unclear why they chose this route. However, with press conferences expected in the near future, we should get some insight to their choice soon.