NFL teams are scheduled to start training camp soon, but the 49ers could still face plenty of obstacles in light of COVID-19 and state shutdowns.
If things go according to plan, San Francisco 49ers rookies are scheduled to report to the team’s facility outside Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California early next week.
The 2020 offseason has been unique, of course, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. League-wide, teams have conducted their offseason programs remotely, using online meetings with zero on-field workouts (at least officially). But various states and jurisdictions have posted altering schedules for reopening. The Kansas City Chiefs will return to their facilities on Monday, July 20, while the Houston Texans are scheduled to return shortly thereafter.
California, meanwhile, is undergoing another large-scale shutdown mandated by Gov. Gavin Newsom last Monday.
Niners Wire’s Kyle Madson outlined what the 49ers are facing now:
"California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday, July 13 announced the statewide closure of indoor operations for a number of businesses, including offices for non-critical sectors. That’s the category where the 49ers’ team facility falls. The facility is open for players rehabbing injuries. It would not be open for training camp.Now the club is inside of two weeks until training camp is set to open and they’re not even allowed into their building."
Offseason workouts, minicamps and OTAs for each team across the league all operate on varying schedules. And to some degree, the Niners being able to retain the vast majority of their starting 2019 roster into this season is a bonus.
And while not being able to host these on-field events outside Levi’s Stadium wasn’t a huge problem previously, any delays in training camp are certainly another matter. Few would disagree with the need to get players’ bodies acclimated to the rigors of a 16-game schedule, coordinate plays with teammates and so on. All this is in line for the team to start both the preseason and regular season with similar preparation times as the rest of the league.
The Athletic’s Matt Barrows (h/t 49ers Webzone) checked in with the Governor’s office about this, particularly with regards to Santa Clara County, and his exact words were, “The state says professional sports are able to resume subject to a review by their home counties. The county is currently reviewing the protocols the 49ers plan to use when training camp convenes…”
49ers, NFL Players Association on board with the league?
Things get a bit more clouded when evaluating how the NFL plans on handling player safety this upcoming season.
"Players want to be as safe as possible.Players have not received a single valid IDER plan (Infections Disease Emergency Response) from any team or the league.Players don’t know if there will be preseason games or not.Players don’t know if there will be daily or semi-daily testing for COVID-19.Players don’t know how a potential positive test would affect contracts, roster spots, etc.Nothing has been agreed upon regarding what training camp will look like and how the “ramp up” period will work."
Cornerback Richard Sherman, the 49ers’ NFLPA union representative, has also been vocal about the union’s interactions with the league, too, particularly the nature of discussions with regards to how training camp and the upcoming season will unfold:
Additionally, there will be a limited number of reporters allowed in to cover San Francisco’s training camp sessions, cutting down on the analysis and news breaking from Santa Clara.
But that seems minor when considering player and fan safety.
Either way, there’s a lot left to be decided with regards to this story, and it’s not likely to go away anytime soon.
All the while, the Niners still have some very serious obstacles they’ll have to address between now and Week 1.