Along with the rest of the league, the Kansas City Chiefs have faced a lot of challenges in planning for training camp during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — which was made even more difficult for the Chiefs because they (along with the Houston Texans) were beginning their training camp schedule three days before the rest of the league’s teams, since they are scheduled to open the season against each other at Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday, September 10.
Now that the league and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) have come to an agreement on how to conduct the final part of this very unusual offseason, we know what Chiefs training camp will look like:
For the rest of this week, newly reporting veterans — like the rookies and quarterbacks last week — will start by getting tested for COVID-19. After receiving their first test, they will be required to self-isolate for three days before being tested again. If they test negative each time (the tests they’re receiving return results within 24 hours) they’ll be allowed to enter the facility this Friday, July 31.
After that, players (along with coaches and staff) will be tested every day. At the end of two weeks, if a team’s total infection rate is below 5%, testing will ramp back to once every two days — and go back to every day if the infection rate rises above that 5% threshold. However, it is important to note that these protocols could change as the season progresses and more is learned about the transmission of the virus.
After that, training camp will be up and running.
- July 31 — August 8: Acclimation period. 60 minutes in the weight room and 60 minutes of on-field conditioning are allowed. Teams may also conduct 60-minute walk-throughs during the first four days and 75-minute walk-throughs during the last four days. August 5 will be a mandated off day.
- August 9 — August 13: Gradual ramp-up period. Practices begin with a 90-minute session on August 9, and may increase by 15 minutes per day up to a maximum of 120 minutes. The rest of the team’s allowed 3.5 hours of on-field time may be used for walkthroughs. Helmets will be allowed — and beginning on August 11, shells may be worn — but no live contact will be permitted. August 12 will be a mandated off day.
- August 14 — September 3: Padded practices. A total of 14 padded practices will be allowed during this 21-day period.
- August 16: Deadline for cutting the roster to 80. Regardless of the number of players on the roster before then, the Chiefs will be allowed to have only 80 in the facility at one time.
- Saturday, September 5: Final cutdown. All teams must get their rosters down to 53 players. As usual, Top 51 rules will no longer apply; the salaries of all players on the roster will count against the salary cap. 16 players will be allowed on team practice squads, which will be named after the cutdown. Four players on each practice squad may be protected from poaching on a week-by-week basis.
- Everyone — players, coaches and staff — are required to wear contact-tracing monitors. Should an individual test positive, data from these monitors will be used to determine if those who came into significant contact with them should be isolated.
- A special COVID Reserve designation has been created. An unlimited number of players for each team may have this designation placed on them. Teams are not required to disclose whether the player has tested positive or has simply been in close contact with another player. Once they have been designated, they must remain on the COVID list for at least 10 days — and at least three days after symptoms have been observed. An exception: an asymptomatic player may be returned to the active roster after only five days if they have had two negative test results.
- Off-field high-risk behavior is prohibited. The league and the union have agreed that some behavior — being an in an indoor night club or bar, an indoor house party with more than 15 people or an indoor church service over 25% of building capacity (or attending indoor concerts and pro sporting events) — may result in team discipline.
- Teams are encouraged to conduct as many virtual meetings as possible.
Does all of this mean the Chiefs will make it through training camp and start the regular season on time? Unfortunately, no.
Does it mean that once the season starts, the NFL will be able to get in their full schedule of games — all the way through the postseason? No... it doesn’t mean that, either.
But this is the best the league and the NFLPA could come up with to give their teams and players a fighting chance to do both of those things.
“Every team is going to have positive tests and we know that,” said Chiefs vice president of sports medicine Rick Burkholder on Saturday. “We are testing positive at 75,000 a day now. We know that. What we hope is we limit our positive tests and when we get a positive test, we act accordingly with the CDC to get those people isolated and get them healthy and safely back to work.
“It’s not going to feel normal for anyone in this building because it is not normal,” he continued. “We’ve got to adjust. I’ll go back to the 2019 season because no team adjusted as well as the Kansas City Chiefs and we’re going to adjust again. We’re going to get positives and take care of those guys so that when it is safe to come back to work, they will.”
“We’re as safe as you can be here [at the Chiefs practice facility],” said head coach Andy Reid. “The dedication and staying disciplined when you leave this facility will be important. When you’re here, this is a safe environment, so you have to continue that when you leave here. That ends up being important, and we have a plan for that, too — that we’ll talk to the players about. I feel good about myself, yes. I feel good about it.”