On Wednesday afternoon, we reported that in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL was preparing to announce the cancellation of the first and fourth preseason games for each team.
For the Kansas City Chiefs, this would mean that the home games against the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers set for August 15 and September 3 would be cancelled — leaving the Chiefs two road games against the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys on August 22 and August 29.
But almost immediately, there was word that when necessary, the schedule would be equalized so that each team would play one preseason game on the road and one at home. But which one of them would become a home matchup remained unknown.
It’s not even 24 hours later, and the situation is now even more unclear.
On Wednesday evening, Denver Broncos NFL Players Association (NFLPA) representative Brandon McManus tweeted that teams would likely be playing even fewer preseason games — and perhaps none at all.
Be ready for 1 or 0 preseason games. Won’t be 2 https://t.co/b8cCB5dTRg— Brandon McManus (@thekidmcmanus) July 1, 2020
This was amplified with an NFL.com report.
There has been no decision on the upcoming NFL preseason as some members of the NFL Players Association are in favor of playing no preseason games ahead of the 2020 NFL season, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero reported Wednesday evening.
Previously, the expectation has been that the NFL would cut the four-game preseason schedule to just two games, however, the NFLPA has yet to sign off and there are some within union leadership who continue to question whether it’s a smart move to play any preseason games at all, Garafolo and Pelissero added.
But it is unclear whether the union actually has a say in the matter. According to an article from Washington Post NFL correspondent Mark Maske, the league doesn’t need the NFLPA’s approval — and is holding firm on its plan.
The league can set the length of the preseason without NFLPA approval, however, and does not intend to budge from its two-game plan even if the union seeks further reductions, according to a person familiar with the NFL’s planning, who said, “It will be two [games].”
NFLPA player representatives are reported to have scheduled a conference call for Thursday evening to discuss the preseason schedule — and hopefully, that will result in further clarity.
And clarity will be needed... soon.
According to a report from ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter on Wednesday, the preseason schedule is far from the only matter that remains undecided.
The NFL and the NFLPA continue to discuss protocols for reopening of team facilities, testing programs and other matters related to playing amid a pandemic. Sources close to the discussions say there is no hard deadline for a finalizing of protocols, but that if training camps are to start on time (July 28 for all [but the Chiefs and Houston Texans]), there’s a sense on both sides that an agreement needs to be reached by the end of next week.
One reason for this is that there’s a chance the league will ask players and team personnel to quarantine at home for two weeks before leaving for camp. This doesn’t even account for newly imposed rules in states like New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts that ask people coming from states where coronavirus cases are spiking to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
This is further complicated by a report from Mike Florio of NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk, which said that rookies would be initially reporting on July 19.
Per a league source, the NFL’s proposed calendar has rookies reporting for a coronavirus test on July 19, with rookie conditioning beginning two days later, on July 21. That same day, injured veterans would have their coronavirus test, with conditioning for injured veterans starting on July 23. Veterans would be tested for the virus on July 26, with veteran conditioning starting along with the launch of camp on July 28.
All of those dates would (presumably) be moved up three days for the Chiefs and Texans, whose camps are set to begin July 25 in order for them to be ready for the opening game of the season on Thursday, September 10 — which would give the league and the union even less time to come to an agreement on these issues; it could mean that final decisions might have to be made in the next few days.
Unless, of course, the league decides to exercise one of the options it built into the 2020 schedule, beginning the season with what would have been Week 5’s scheduled games on Thursday, October 8 — and moving the games from Week 1 through Week 4 to the end of the season. That would cause the Chiefs begin the regular season with a road game against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, October 11 — and end it against the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots sometime in January.
We will keep you posted.