Tuesday marks the beginning of training camp for the Ravens, along with the rest of the NFL, but it will look noticeably different as the league attempts to push through its season amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a host of terms concerning the pandemic to ensure the season starts on time. Ravens rookies arrived at Owings Mills on July 21 to begin required testing for admission into the team’s facility. Quarterbacks were allowed to arrive Thursday and the remaining veterans on Tuesday. While the return of veterans technically signals the start of training camp, it will be some time until players are in full pads, preparing for the Sept. 13 season-opener against the Cleveland Browns.
Here’s a breakdown of what the leadup to the 2020 season will reportedly look like this year.
July 28-29: Veterans arriving at the facility will undergo a COVID-19 test on back-to-back days.
July 30: Players will remain away from the facility while waiting for the results of their tests.
July 31: Players will return to the facility to take their third COVID-19 test.
Aug. 1-2: Players who have returned three negative tests can enter the facility to take their physicals and be fitted for their equipment.
Aug. 3-11: Teams will go through an acclimation period that consists of 60 minutes of weight lifting and 60 minutes of on-field conditioning daily. Teams are also allowed to conduct 60-minute walkthroughs for the first four days of this period and 75-minute walkthroughs for the final four days. Aug. 8 is a mandatory day off.
Aug. 12-16: Teams are permitted to begin their gradual ramp-up period, which consists of four days of unpadded practices. Players are allowed to wear helmets and shells during this period but are barred from live contact and other customary practice activities. The first practice starts at 90 minutes and subsequent practices can be increased by intervals of 15 minutes up to a daily maximum of 120 minutes. Aug. 15 is a mandatory day off.
Aug. 17-Sept. 6: Teams are permitted to hold a maximum of 14 padded practices. After the designated day off on Aug. 8, players must receive one day off for every seven days of practice. The regular-season practice week begins Sept. 7.
After returning three negative COVID-19 tests to be allowed into the team’s facility, players will be tested daily for two weeks. After two weeks, if the positivity rate of those tested — players, coaches and staff — is below 5%, testing will be conducted every other day.
What happens if a player tests positive?
The NFL created a temporary injured reserve list for players who have either contracted COVID-19 or been exposed to someone who contracted the virus. Under the NFL’s protocol, players who are asymptomatic can return to the facility 10 days after the positive test or if they return two consecutive negative tests within five days of the positive test.
Players who are symptomatic can return to the facility 10 days after first showing symptoms and at least 72 hours after last showing symptoms. The Ravens on Sunday placed undrafted rookie safety Nigel Carter on the reserve list.
During the season, practice squads — which under the new collective bargaining agreement were set to expand from 10 players to 12 in 2020 — for each team will be increased to 16 players to account for any positive COVID-19 tests. Teams will be permitted to replace a player on the reserve list with a member of their practice squad. Once the player on the reserve list is medically cleared, the substitute player can be moved back to the practice squad without clearing waivers, which is the customary protocol.
In a letter to fans Monday, commissioner Roger Goodell officially announced that no preseason games will be played this season as part of the agreement with the NFLPA.
The elimination of the preseason was a likely part of the agreement because of the extended ramp-up period and the need to reduce potential COVID-19 transmission in meaningless games. With the NFL transitioning to a 17-game schedule in the coming years and increasing calls by veterans to cut the preseason, it might be the last we’ve seen of a four-game preseason slate.
Teams are required to reduce their rosters to 80 players by Aug. 16. According to ESPN, teams can carry 90-man rosters until the deadline, so long as no more than 80 players are in the facility at a time. Since Saturday, the Ravens have waived five players as they trim their roster to 80.