As it stands, the world remains in the grip of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, but some states are beginning to enter Phase 1 of their respective reopening plans. The outbreak initially led to the shutdown and/or suspension of every sport in the US, as local jurisdictions employ varying levels of shelter-in-place orders that also include banning gatherings of more than 10 people. The NFL has mostly dodged the bullet -- considering its season doesn't begin until September -- and while the league is relegated to beginning offseason programs virtually, training camp and the timing of the regular season remain on schedule for now.
It's all still a fluid situation and the NFL has planned for multiple contingencies but if training camps do actually get underway in July, some teams may have to leave home to make it happen. That's a possibility currently being investigated by several clubs, per Albert Breer of SI.com -- the reality being not every state will reopen at the same time or in the same manner.
The State of California, for example, currently employs one of the most stringent shelter-in-place laws, and governor Gavin Newsom recently made clear he sees no path wherein his state will be in Phase 4 of the reopening process by September; shooting down any idea of full stadiums (and the like) in his state any time soon. If that holds true, it would directly impact the two teams in Los Angeles, but also the Dallas Cowboys, the latter annually leaving its home in North Texas to hold training camp in the City of Oxnard.
While no decision has been formally made by owner Jerry Jones, Texas has already begun Phase 1 of reopening and could very well be at Phase 4 far before California, making it more likely (for now) they'd be able to open their doors to their personnel plus the 90 players set to show up and practice. The City of Oxnard is committed to getting the Cowboys to return for 2020, however, even if it means blocking fans from attending camp. So while others might be forced to leave home and train in states that allow it, the Cowboys might find themselves on the opposite side of that spectrum.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the country, continues to warn against premature reopenings, but does see a potential path to the NFL beginning on-time. That said, he believes it would need to come with diligent testing and other precautionary measures having first been installed.
"This is a respiratory virus, so it's going to be spread by shedding [the] virus," Fauci said, via NBCSports. "The problem with virus shedding is that if I have it in my nasopharynx, and it sheds and I wipe my hand against my nose -- now it's on my hand. You see, then I touch my chest or my thigh, then it's on my chest or my thigh for at least a few hours. Sweat as such won't transmit it. But if people are in such close contact as football players are on every single play, then that's the perfect setup for spreading.
"I would think that if there is an infected football player on the field -- a middle linebacker, a tackle, whoever it is -- as soon as they hit the next guy, the chances are that they will be shedding virus all over that person. If you really want to be in a situation where you want to be absolutely certain, you'd test all the players before the game, and you say, 'Those who are infected: Sorry, you're sidelined. Those who are free: Get in there and play.'"
Fauci also advises that should the NFL decide to fire up training camps in July, testing shouldn't be relegated to simply once or twice, but instead multiple times per week to ensure someone who didn't have coronavirus hasn't suddenly contracted it without knowing.
"If I test today and I'm negative, you don't know if I got exposed tomorrow," he noted. "So, practically speaking, the success or failure, the ability or not, to actually have a football season is going to depend on just on what I said ... but what I'm really saying is it's unpredictable depending upon how we respond in the fall."
The operative word here, as the NFL and the rest of the world well knows, is "unpredictable." There's still roughly eight weeks before teams are allowed to open training camp though, assuming they still will be, and don't be surprised if several clubs pack up and head out of state to make sure they're not falling behind the competitive curve in 2020.