After a virtual draft dictated by mandated social distancing during this pandemic, Pete Carroll and John Schneider said they wanted to add mature, experienced players who can learn quickly and will require less time than most to prepare for the NFL.
As Schneider said, “It’s been important for us to try to acquire players that seem to be a little bit ahead of the curve from a learning standpoint in this current environment that we’re in.”
That naturally leads to the next question: Just how little time will they have to prepare for the season? And how much time do they need?
“That’s gonna be a very big issue,” Carroll said.
“Our guys need six weeks of work to really get rolling. That’s what the league has always allowed us — a couple weeks and then four (preseason) games.
“There’s a certain level of competition and stress you need to be under to get your body to adapt and be ready for the level of play that the league demands. I don’t know how that’s going to go. But I do think it takes you five to six weeks anyway — and that’s coming off weeks and weeks of an entire offseason.”
Seattle’s virtual offseason begins Monday, and a virtual rookie minicamp will take place in a couple of weeks, Carroll said. But the NFL has not given direction about training camp yet.
“I don’t know that they know yet,” he said. “We’ll kind of re-establish where we are. I would imagine in the next couple of weeks we’ll get a lot more information about that. But who knows? We don’t know. This is pandemic time, so we’re in a whole new ballgame right here.”
Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said, “I know it’s something the league has been thinking about. Once we get past the draft, I’m sure it’s something we’ll start discussing at the committee level first and then as an entire ownership. It will only be prudent to have some contingency plans because we just don’t know how the pandemic is gonna play out over the next three to four months.”
National health experts and models say social distancing should remain through the summer, to flatten the curve across the nation and reduce the chance of a second wave in the fall. The availability of mass testing and tracing is guiding the reopening of most states, and those that rev up too early risk setting the entire country back. That is where the NFL would be affected.
Saints coach Sean Payton, who had the coronavirus in March, expressed that concern, telling ESPN on Saturday: “I feel like we’re doing good as a country, and we’re in the third quarter, maybe the early fourth quarter, and we’re talking about taking our starters out of the game with a 10-point lead, and I feel like we gotta be smart about this.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday that the league is planning to stay on schedule. “We know that we’re dealing with a different environment. And obviously, public safety will be No. 1 on our mind, but we believe that we’ve been able to make modifications; the draft was a great example,” he told “CBS This Morning.” “We’re able to make changes to the way we operate, to do it in the environment that we’re in, and do it so our fans’ and our participants’ safety is No. 1.”
Goodell said the NFL is consulting medical experts on “safety guidelines” for training camps, which typically begin in late July.
The NFL schedule is supposed to be released May 8 or 9, and there is plenty of speculation that it will be formatted in a way that nonconference games can easily be chopped to create a 12- or 14-game season.
“I think right now our job is to be prepared for the season,” Goodell said. “That means keeping our football schedule as best we can — obviously with modifications to make sure we’re doing it safely. But we’re going to be prepared and ready, and we’re planning on playing this fall — even though it may be different.”
As for player preparation, Carroll hopes the NFL will not say: “OK, let’s get two weeks of work and let’s start playing NFL games.”
“I hope it’s not like that because that’s going to be really challenging on their bodies. It will be almost impossible to figure that you could do it.”
Even during normal years, Carroll said he is always concerned about the six weeks before camp. “It’s frightening for me to think that our guys go off on their own and we can’t help them stay fit as they prepare for this most rigorous of events, going through a football season.”
He reminded everyone that they typically ramp up players over several weeks: “What usually happens is we go to camp for a couple weeks and then we play a game and the guys play a quarter. They don’t play a full football game. We take all of that time to kind of lead them into it.”
He said a decision on camps opening will be made only after “a lot of scientifics, a lot of analytics that will help support that. It’s going to be a challenge to figure that out.”