More positive news appears to be looming above the NFL as it pertains to the possibility of its 2020 regular season getting underway as scheduled in September. The league continues to work hand-in-hand with all 32 teams, their local jurisdictions and the NFLPA to formulate and formalize a plan of action for a return of a more traditional offseason amid the COVID-19 pandemic, having already given, and releasing a memo on June 8 that details what must take place in each facility before players are allowed to show up -- .
That said, there is still no official date on when players will/can return, and sources tell CBS Sports it's "highly unlikely" there will be a minicamp in June. That makes sense when considering all that needs to still be sorted on June 8, but the league is still eyeing strongly the possibility of beginning training camp in July. What's more is commissioner Roger Goodell may be willing to nudge the start of training camp forward, per Albert Breer of SI.com, which would give players additional time to reacclimate to live team conditioning and workouts after having been forced into a virtual offseason for what would ultimately be three months.
Without mini-camps for rookies and veterans, going straight into training camp without being allowed to ramp up increases the risk of severe injury, seeing as all players are already nearly half a year from having meaningfully played or practiced. That said, it makes sense the league would consider an early start to camp, and possibly even a swift(er) return to the two select groups mentioned -- Breer also reports. It's now reportedly possible rookies and veterans who changed teams and subsequently may still need physicals to finalize pending deals, to show up in their new digs as early as June 26.
This would have to be agreed upon by the NFLPA though, which leaves less than three weeks for teams to get their COVID-19 affairs in order -- per the aforementioned June 8 memo -- in order to have a chance at seeing it happen. That seems unlikely, but it isn't an impossibility when considering the recent movement toward phased reopenings.
In a separate step toward the potentiality of a July camp, the league has taken the added measure of mandating each camp be held at home, and no travel will be permitted.
Should training camp get underway, but without an early start, there's also the option of shaving the preseason, and that's something players would likely approve of quickly if it is presented as a viable option. The number of preseason games has long been a point of contention between the league and players -- including a key talking point in the negotiation of the new collective bargaining agreement -- and teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers face a five-game preseason slate in 2020, by way of the two being pit against each other in this year's Hall of Fame Game. There's still much to be determined in the next several weeks, but Goodell made it clear in a separate memo on June 8 that the league is still "moving forward with planning for the 2020 season".
Will training camp get underway in mid-July, late July or later? Will the number of preseason games be reduced to allow for re-acclimation to ensure a timely regular season start? Will the regular season actually begin in September, will it be delayed, and will fans be present in any capacity?
Unprecedented times present a laundry list of unprecedented questions, and only time can answer them.