NFL Announces 2020 Training Camps Begin July 28

Despite the coronavirus pandemic that is currently ravaging parts of the United States, the NFL has announced that training camps will open on July 28th for all 32 NFL teams. For the NFL and the TV networks, this is a dollar and sense decision. There are billions of dollars at stake that make the cancellation of the NFL season almost impossible.

To enable football in the fall, the NFL has decided to cancel all preseason games and limit the rosters to 80 players, down from the typical 90-man roster to start training camp. The reduction in roster size requires less testing and makes it easier to allow for social distancing. BioReference Laboratories will handle Covid-19 testing for all 32 NFL teams this season, with 120 tests to be given daily to players and NFL personnel.

According to Sports Business Daily, the total cost to the NFL for this testing will be about $75 million. While that seems like a lot of money, the NFL distributed $296 million in national revenue to each NFL team in 2019, the bulk coming from TV contracts with the networks. That works out to the NFL distributing $9.2 billion dollars to 32 teams. So, it is easy to see that while $75 million seems like a lot of money, it less than 1% of the total revenue that the NFL distributes to each team.

The NFL generates a lot of profit for the television networks, with 41 of the top 50 rated programs on TV in 2019 being NFL games, including the Super Bowl, which was the top-rated program of the year. There is just too much money at stake to just cancel the season due to the pandemic. The daily test and enhanced safety protocols being adopted by the NFL and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) should help.

In a call with the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA), NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith stated that, “The league is management. They have the exclusive right, just like somebody who owns a plant, when does it open, when does it close, what our hours are. The CBA (collective bargaining agreement) dictates wages, hours, working conditions, and generally and explicitly in this case we’ve made provisions about being in a position to approve the infectious disease response plans for the teams.”

So, it looks like a go for the 2020 NFL season, in some form or fashion. At this point in time, the 32 NFL teams are individually trying to come up with a plan for fan attendance. The Baltimore Ravens are going to limit attendance to 14,000 per game, about 20 per cent of the maximum. The Green Bay Packers are going to limit the attendance to 10,000 to 12,000 per game. Reduced attendance numbers will translate to reduced revenue for each team and will impact the 2021 NFL salary cap, which is based on the revenue numbers from the 2020 season.

As Smith stated in the interview: “If there is a dramatic decrease in revenue for this year, and some estimates are that it could be $70 million per club as the impact on player cost, that means that the salary cap next year could be something around $120 million, and that would mean a number of players could be cut. A lot of players who have salaries that would push a team above that salary cap would be forced to renegotiate, drastically renegotiate, their contracts or they would be cut.”

For this season, the salary cap will not be the overriding issue for NFL teams. Managing the Covid-19 virus could be the key issue to success. As one NFL executive recently told Peter King of NBS Sports: “We could crown the Detroit Lions Super Bowl champs this year. Because this year’s going to be about who handles COVID the best.”

The cancellation of all preseason games will negatively effect some of the rookies, who need an opportunity to play in a preseason game. Six weeks of conditioning and practice are fine but playing a game against NFL talent would help. For the local teams, the Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams will miss out on their preseason game at the new SoFi Stadium. They will both be featured on the HBO Documentary series, “Hard Knocks,” which will debut on August 11th on HBO.

Neither team has officially announced their attendance limitations for the 2020 season during the pandemic, but the NFL did announce that masks will be required at all NFL games this year. The Chargers open the season on Sunday, September 13th at Cincinnati against the Bengals, and rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. The Rams open the season on Sunday Night, September 13th at home against the Dallas Cowboys.


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