NFL: Camps must be at home; no joint practices

NFL teams must hold training camps this summer at their main practice facilities because of the coronavirus pandemic, commissioner Roger Goodell told all 32 organizations in a memo Tuesday obtained by ESPN.

In addition, teams will not be allowed to hold joint training camp practices with other teams, the memo said.

“The NFLPA was strongly in favor of these two decisions, which were made to limit exposure risks by avoiding the need for clubs to clean and maintain two facilities, by limiting the need for players and club staffs to travel to another location (sometimes located at a considerable distance from the home facility), and by limiting travel and contact between players on different clubs in the context of joint practices,” Goodell said in the memo. “These steps are being taken for the 2020 preseason to address the current conditions and are not expected to be in place in 2021.”

In 2019, 10 teams practiced away from their main practice facilities.

Among them were the Carolina Panthers, who have prepared for every season since their first in 1995 at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

“We are aware of the league’s decision regarding training camp and support its goal of ensuring the safety of fans, players, coaches and staff,” said Steven Drummond, Panthers vice president of communications and external affairs. “We value our longstanding relationship with Wofford College and the Spartanburg area and look forward to returning in 2021.”

The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers are scheduled for the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 6, and would be the first two teams to report in late July. Pittsburgh usually trains in nearby Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

The Cowboys held training camp in Oxnard, California, from 2012 to 2019, and had been in discussions with the city as well as the River Ridge Residence Inn, their camp home, about pushing back their dates this summer as well as securing the site for camps in the future.

With camp at The Star, the Texas heat could be an issue and lead the team to have practices earlier in the morning or in the early evening. The Cowboys have held early-evening camp practices at The Star that have been open to fans since the facility opened in 2016 after a stay in California of nearly a month.

Another potential issue for the Cowboys is that The Star has just one grass practice field. In addition to the cool temperatures in Oxnard, the team had the use of two grass fields to help ease the burden on players’ legs.

The Washington Redskins, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams also normally leave their main facilities. The Chicago Bears spent the past 18 years training at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, but had announced earlier this offseason that they would move camp back to Halas Hall in Lake Forest. (The Green Bay Packers practice at their team facility, but technically stay at St. Norbert College in nearby De Pere, Wisconsin.)

The Raiders‘ move to Las Vegas has been complicated by the pandemic. They had been working out of their Oakland-area complex in Alameda, had been planning to hold training camp as usual in Napa, about one hour north of the Bay Area, but now will hold camp at their new facility in Henderson, Nevada.

The league announced in mid-May that teams could begin reopening their facilities on a limited basis when state and local governments allowed it.

The next phase of reopening began Monday with clubs allowed to reopen ticket offices, retail shops and other customer-facing facilities, as long as the openings fully comply with state and local regulations.

Currently, no coaches are allowed in team facilities, although that could change in the near future.

Information from ESPN’s Todd Archer and The Associated Press was used in this report.