From players getting their COVID-19 shots to relaxed coronavirus protocols to roster issues, particularly at the quarterback, the NFL faces a plethora of questions as training camps open.
At least in 2021, there is the knowledge – and lessons learned – of the end of last season during a pandemic. The league, whose most valuable person in 2020 was arguably medical director Dr Allen Sills, recognizes that while huge strides have been made in the fight against the virus, caution remains crucial.
“We’re seeing a lot of positive moves,” Sills said when seven teams had at least 85% of players vaccinated and around 70% of all players were vaccinated. “We are pleased with this progress, but there is still work to be done. And we’ll be working with our clubs and their medical staff in partnership to increase those numbers, but we’re off to a good start and we’re optimistic we’ll see continued progress there. “
Players who have not been vaccinated must continue to undergo daily testing, wear masks and practice physical distancing. They will not be allowed to eat their meals with their teammates; cannot participate in any media or marketing activities during the trip; are not allowed to use the sauna or steam room; and may not leave the team hotel or interact with people outside the team during the trip.
Vaccinated players will not have any of these restrictions. And any coronavirus outbreak caused by unvaccinated players could result in this team losing a regular season game.
“We feel like we know that in our country and in the league where and how things are improving, and for me, there is a direct correlation with people getting vaccinated,” said the Bills coach Sean McDermott last month.
The preseason will only feature three games for each team, with the exception of Dallas and Pittsburgh, who will play four because they meet in the Hall of Fame game on August 5. The regular season, of course, has been extended from one game to 17.
Some tips to look for this summer:
OK ready? Deep breath:
—Will 2020 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers report to the Packers, hold, force a Green Bay trade, or retire? It might pay off to plug into “Jeopardy!” For the solution.
– What will be the status of Deshaun Watson in Houston? Investigations continue after 22 women filed lawsuits alleging Watson assaulted or sexually harassed them.
—How far do the Cowboys ‘Dak Prescott, Bengals Joe Burrow and 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo come out of serious injuries?
—Will Carson Wentz’s career be revitalized in Indianapolis? Can Sam Darnold prove himself in Carolina? Are the Rams correct that Matt Stafford is the missing piece?
– Is Tom Brady ever going to be, uh, old man?
They are seven: Robert Saleh (Jets), David Culley (Texans), Urban Meyer (Jaguars), Brandon Staley (Chargers), Nick Sirianni (Eagles), Dan Campbell (Lions) and Arthur Smith (Falcons). Meyer is the most intriguing, a winner all over college, but seemingly plagued by the urge to travel to all of these schools.
History tells us that aside from Jimmy Johnson, very few college-educated coaches have had even distant success among the pros. Remember Nick Saban flopped in Miami.
Meyer starts off with an improved roster from what Jacksonville used to go from 1 to 15 and “win” top draft pick, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
OPT OUT RETURN
Adjustments for players who have retired from 2020 and are returning now will be worth watching. There’s chef guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a licensed physician who missed the 2020 season to work in a long-term care facility in his home country of Canada. There’s also Jets linebacker CJ Mosley, who was out most of 2019 due to injury. Not to mention the players among the eight Patriots who jumped last season and are returning.
“I was able to stay in pretty good shape, but I think that when it comes to football form, there is no other treatment than just playing football,” said Duvernay-Tardif. ”… I look forward to other practices. I think that’s the key, it’s to have visibility, to have representatives.
THE WOUNDED STARS COME BACK
COVID-19 wasn’t the only health issue for gamers last year. Major injuries have sidelined the stars for long periods of time, and the focus will be on their fitness and diminishing skills.
Alongside Prescott and Garoppolo, idle backers Saquon Barkley (Giants), Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) and Joe Mixon (Bengals); receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (Browns) and Courtland Sutton (Broncos); tight end George Kittle (49ers); and linemen Mike Pouncey (Chargers), Tyron Smith (Cowboys) and Taylor Lewan (Titans).
Defending, absent for long periods were linemen Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas (49ers), Danielle Hunter (Vikings) and Jurrell Casey (Broncos); linebackers Von Miller (Broncos), Anthony Barr (Vikings) and Chandler Jones (Cardinals); cornerbacks Richard Sherman (49ers) and Trae Wayans (Bengals); and security Landon Collins (Washington).
TO TAKE OUT
What impact, if any, will Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib become the first active NFL player to go gay on the professional football community?
Nassib’s announcement has generally been met with support from all levels of the league: players, coaches, executives, owners.
“The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth…” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a June statement. “Representation matters. We share his hope that one day soon statements like his will no longer be newsworthy as we march towards full equality for the LGBTQ + community.
AP Pro Football writers Simmi Buttar, Rob Maaddi, Mark Long, Arnie Stapleton and Dennis Waszak Jr., and sports writers John Wawrow and Dave Skretta contributed.
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