The 49ers and the rest of the NFL won’t have to play at least half their preseason games in 2020, according to a report from Pro Football Talk.
It took COVID-19 to convince the NFL the San Francisco 49ers and the 31 other teams across the league that the preseason didn’t need to be its full four-game length.
Instead of talk, however, the global pandemic has ultimately forced the NFL to consider shortening these exhibition games, which included chopping the Hall of Fame game and now cutting the standard four preseason bouts down to two.
According to a Wednesday report from Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, that’s what will happen:
"It’s been rumored and expected. It’s now official: The 2020 preseason will be trimmed from four games to two.Specifically, Week One and Week Four have been scrapped. The league is expected to announce the move on Thursday.The move was driven by two primary factors. First, teams who will be playing preseason games on the road won’t want to move that many people. Second, given that no teams had on-field practice sessions in the offseason, coaches would rather have the extra time to work with their teams, and that will happen if they don’t have to worry about two extra preseason games."
The idea here would be for teams to focus more on their training camp sessions rather than relatively meaningless football, with at least one of those games coming on the road.
Specifically Week 4 of the preseason, which is almost entirely made up of playing vying for only a handful of 53-man roster spots or placement on teams’ practice squads.
For the 49ers, who retained the vast majority of their 2019 Super Bowl-appearing roster, this seems like a perfect bonus. There isn’t much need for head coach Kyle Shanahan to evaluate the very bottom depths of his offseason roster.
Shanahan would assuredly be on board, too.
“You absolutely don’t need four preseason games,” Shanahan told reporters (h/t 49ers Webzone) a year ago. “I’d rather have zero than four, preferably I’d like two. One to evaluate the people trying to make the team and then just one to knock a little rust off.”
Currently, the Niners’ 2020 preseason schedule is as follows:
- Saturday, Aug. 15 @ Denver Broncos
- Friday, Aug. 21 vs. Las Vegas Raiders
- Saturday, Aug. 29 @ Chicago Bears
- Thursday, Sept. 3 vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Florio’s report, if it’s true, would cut the road game at Denver while doing away with the fourth and final preseason game against the Chargers at Levi’s Stadium.
Weeks 2 and 3 of the preseason would go ahead as normally scheduled, as long as things don’t change more between now and then.
49ers, rest of league won’t have Supplementary NFL Draft in 2020
San Francisco hasn’t taken advantage of the annual Supplementary NFL Draft in recent years, and it’s rare for teams to do so anyway given they have to give up a corresponding pick in the following year’s actual NFL Draft.
The last notable Niners player to arrive in the league via this route is former linebacker Ahmad Brooks, whom the Cincinnati Bengals selected back in 2006.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (h/t NFL.com’s Kevin Patra), there won’t be any supplemental draft this year:
"Under the collective bargaining agreement, the NFL may elect to hold a supplemental draft, but given the current conditions due to COVID-19, and after discussions with the NFL Management Council Executive Committee, the decision was made not to hold one in 2020, Pelissero added.Prospective supplemental draft picks will not be free agents, but can enter the 2021 NFL Draft instead, Pelissero reported."
Given the 49ers’ relatively low level of roster needs and limited draft picks in 2021, it would have been unlikely the team would want to add players of this ilk anyway.
But it is worth noting, especially considering the Niners at least attended supplemental draftee defensive back Brandon Bryant’s workout back in 2018.
Bryant eventually signed with the New York Jets after going undrafted.
And as far as league precautions in light of COVID-19 go, it’s certain the cut of both the supplemental draft and half of the preseason won’t be the last we hear of notable changes in 2020.