NFL, Colts preparing for ‘phased’ reopening

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(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL and Indianapolis Colts are taking small steps in returning to some level of normalcy.

Beginning Tuesday, teams in compliance with state and local health requirements under the COVID-19 pandemic can take the first step toward reopening their facilities. Team headquarters have been closed to all personnel since mid-March.

“We’re taking it gradual and following the guidelines set forth by the NFL,’’ Steve Campbell, the Colts’ vice-president of communications, said Saturday. “We’re making sure we check all the boxes.’’

One notable aspect of the first phase of the reopening is coaches are not allowed in the building. There is no timetable for when coaches and players will be allowed back into the facility.

A byproduct of team facilities being closed has been all offseason workout programs being held on a virtual platform.

The NFL sent teams a memorandum Friday outlining the “phased approach’’ that must be followed. On May 6, the league provided teams with a set of protocols developed by Dr. Allen Sills, its lead medical officer that had to be met prior to the gradual reopening of facilities.

Among the main points of the phased reopening:

  • No more than 50 percent of a team’s staff is allowed at the facility with a maximum of 75.
  • No members of the coaching staff are permitted in the facility. That is to maintain a competitive balance among all 32 teams. Some teams might be governed by stricter stay-at-home guidelines.
  • The only players allowed at a facility are ones in the midst of injury rehabilitation. To accommodate those players, the strength and conditioning coach is permitted to return.
  • Teams must promptly report any employee testing positive for COVID-19.

In Friday’s memo, commissioner Roger Goodell said, “This first phase of reopening is an important step in demonstrating our ability to operate safely and effectively, even in the current environment. After we implement this first phase, and as more states and localities enact policies that allow more club facilities to re-open, I expect that additional staff, likely including coaching staff, will be allowed to return to club facilities in a relatively short time.’’

The NFL released the 2020 schedule last week. The preseason begins Aug. 6 with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio – Pittsburgh vs. Dallas – and the Sept. 10 regular-season opener features Houston at Super Bowl champion Kansas City.

The Colts open the regular season Sept. 13 at Jacksonville.

Under normal circumstances, the team’s offseason program would end the third week of June and players would report to Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield in late July for training camp.

Now, uncertainty rules.

It’s conceivable the NFL’s graduated re-opening won’t allow players to report until after their team’s offseason program has ended. And no one knows if/when training camp will actually open. There is a designated “down time’’ for players between the end of offseason workouts and camp.

The Colts are undoubtedly considering all their options. That probably includes holding training camp at their West 56th Street complex rather than in Westfield.

“There’s just so much we don’t know right now,’’ Campbell said.

A few players admitted they won’t be overly concerned when they are allowed to return.

“I mean, there are always risks,’’ wideout T.Y. Hilton said. “But I mean if we’re able to go out there, we pretty much have cleared all the things that we need to clear. So, I don’t think it’ll be a problem.’’

Added cornerback Kenny Moore II: “If we’re able to go to work, there’s not much for me to ask. I mean, if everything is safe and healthy and we’re all screened and everybody is passing the test, I don’t see a worry there.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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