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Chiefs’ first roster cutdown could occur before training camp

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If adopted, a new NFLPA proposal would require teams to take just 80 players to training camp — and limit their interactions.

NFL: AUG 04 Chiefs Training Camp Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs are still scheduled to open their training camp on July 25 at the team’s practice facility on the grounds of the Truman Sports Complex. That’s just 19 days from now.

But over the weekend, we learned that the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has made a proposal that could substantially affect how the Chiefs (and the rest of the NFL’s teams) go about their business: require that teams have no more than 80 players in camp — 10 fewer players than are typically allowed.

According to a report from Mike Florio of NBC Sports’ “Pro Football Talk,” the NFLPA’s recommendation goes even further.

The union also wants no more than 20 players in a given facility at one time during the initial acclimatization period (training and conditioning) covering the first 21 days of camp. The number doubles to a maximum of 40 during the next phase of 10 days of non-contact practices.

So, basically, teams would have to operate in multiple shift for the first 31 days of camp, if the NFLPA’s recommendation is accepted. The final two weeks of preseason preparation, involving 10 practices (eight padded) would entail the entire roster.

As Florio noted, this proposal is a bit out of character for a union that would typically consider more jobs for its members as its first priority — which we should probably consider as a sign that the NFLPA considers COVID-19 as a significant health risk to the players.

In any case, it is consistent with an NFLPA-proposed training camp schedule that NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero laid out on Friday:

  • Three days of medical and equipment checks
  • 21 days of strength and conditioning
  • 10 days of unpadded practice
  • 14 days of practice (10 maximum — eight of them padded)

That schedule also fits with the NFLPA’s position that no preseason games should be played; under this timeline, the Chiefs’ first padded practice could not take place before August 28 — almost a week after the first preseason game (now scheduled for August 22) — and just one day before the second exhibition game now set for August 29.

The NFLPA’s proposals boil down to teams making a 10-player cut to their rosters before training camp even begins. In any other season, that wouldn’t be terribly difficult; coaching staffs would have had at least some opportunity to see what these players could do on the field during organized team activities, rookie minicamps and so on.

But in the offseason of the coronavirus pandemic, the only thing coaches really know about their newly-signed players is how they have responded to instruction in the virtual meetings they’ve conducted. While coaches across the league have spoken positively about how this has worked out, it’s unlikely you could find many who believe the process has given them enough information to lop 10 players from their training camp rosters.

And to be clear, we don’t know exactly how the NFLPA’s proposal would actually affect rosters. Could players not present in camp remain on a roster — and therefore protected from being signed by another team — or would they simply have to be cut? Would we see a round of rookie players jumping from team to team — similar to what we see after final cutdowns — on the eve of training camp?

For now, these kinds of questions remain unanswered — and we do not know how much of the substance of these NFLPA proposals will find their way into how the NFL conducts its training camp business. But we can be sure they’re part of the ongoing negotiations between the league and the union — and just over three weeks remain until most teams will begin camp.