With little fanfare — not even a final press availability — the Kansas City Chiefs completed their virtual offseason program on Thursday. The organization is taking Friday off to honor Juneteenth, an unofficial holiday marking June 19, 1865 — the day U.S. Army general Gordon Granger proclaimed that all slaves in the former Confederate state of Texas were free.
The NFL — and many of its teams — are also taking Friday off to commemorate the day.
The Chiefs’ only official act on Thursday was to conclude its online watch party of the 2019 season with a replay of Super Bowl LIV, which included a statement from owner Clark Hunt about the leadership being displayed by quarterback Patrick Mahomes and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
“We’ve got a chance to really make a difference now.” pic.twitter.com/tIYIGePFf3— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) June 18, 2020
“I think we all know what great leaders the two of them are — that’s both on the field and off,” Hunt told watch party co-hosts Mitch Holthus and Matt McMullen. “It’s been so great to see the two of them out front over the last couple of weeks as our country faces some very difficult challenges. We’ve got a chance to really make a difference now — to really make some progress on racism — and guys like Patrick and Tyrann are leading their teammates. Hopefully, the Kansas City Chiefs as an organization will be able to have a big impact as a result.”
It was the first time Hunt had spoken publicly about Mahomes’ participation in the video supporting the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 — and the voter registration push spearheaded by Mahomes and Mathieu that followed.
The next step for the Chiefs will be the opening of training camp, which is currently expected to begin as scheduled on July 25. Since they are scheduled to open the season on Thursday, September 10 at Arrowhead, the Chiefs and the Houston Texans will begin camp three days before the rest of the league’s teams.
But as the coronavirus pandemic continues. just about everything else about what will come next is uncertain.
Right now, we don’t know whether the team will be allowed to travel to St. Joseph, Missouri for training camp. On June 2, there was a report that the NFL was set to announce that all teams would have to conduct their training camps at their team facilities — rather than at remote locations, as the Chiefs and nine other teams generally do — but thus far, the league has not made that official.
“I’ll do anything that we have to do,” head coach Andy Reid told reporters on June 10. “I want to make sure people are safe. I think we all do, right? I want to make sure that there are no repercussions. We’re in a time of change with that, with the COVID-19. We’re learning new stuff every day and the doctors in science are doing a phenomenal job with this. Let’s see how it goes.”
At this moment, the picture is not encouraging. Just this week, multiple players for the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys were reported to have tested positive for the coronavirus, along with Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson. There are no reports that any of these players have become seriously ill, but the league has made it clear that when players test positive, they will be required to be isolated for a period of time to prevent the spread of the disease.
And since all of these infections have occurred outside of team facilities, we don’t yet know what might happen when players begin working together in person.
“We expect we are going to have positive tests.” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN on Monday. “That is part of the increased testing that we will be going through and that is something that we just want to make sure that our protocols are working and to date. We are seeing very positive reactions in the sense that we are making sure we respond quickly, protect the personnel that may be impacted by that and others that may be in contact with them.”
Even without the coronavirus threat, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Chiefs. The contract situations for Mahomes and defensive tackle Chris Jones remain unresolved — and if the season is played without fans in the stadiums, we’ve learned that it could cause the team’s salary cap pool to fall by as much as 25% in 2021. This make it a less-than-ideal time to be negotiating two major contracts.
But fans want the NFL to play — and the league clearly intends to press forward with its plans for the season for as long as it can. A lot could change during the five weeks until training camp is scheduled to begin. So from the executive suite to the equipment room, everyone in the Chiefs organization will simply have to be as flexible as they can.
“I’m sure there will be different things and hurdles we have to cross,” Reid said, “but we’ll be ready.”