Football…but not as we know it.

Football…but not as we know it.
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There will be football this season. The NFL is back, as it is every year, but this year there will be changes as a result of the Coronavirus. So what can we expect?

With the Coronavirus still very much an issue across the world the only thing that’s certain is that there’s uncertainty. Whilst the NFL will have a pre season of sorts, it will look very different from the usual buildup to the season. One thing is clear, the NFL and players want there to be football … if it’s safe.

Following a significant and co-ordinated social media campaign by NFL veterans the NFL met with the NFLPA (the player’s union) to discuss a number of health concerns that players had.

To report the results of this meeting, the NFLPA held a conference call with its players on Tuesday night to reveal several key developments for 2020. These changes are both necessary and significant. I’ll take a look at these developments and offer my thoughts on how they may affect players and what we see on the field.

No preseason games in 2020 – This one seems obvious but the players did not want to risk exposure for ‘meaningless’ pre season games. This absolutely makes sense but will likely change the makeup of NFL rosters this year, at least at the start of the season. With no live competition it will be extremely tough for undrafted players or lower round draft picks to make the team. I’d expected teams to stick to what they know in terms of skill sets, rather than taking a chance on potential as they may have done in previous years.

Games in Week 1 and Week 4 of the pre season often see roles filled exclusively by younger, largely unknown players. Week 4 especially has been a time when players on the fringe can make a huge difference to their chances of making the team. With no pre season these live opportunities will stack the odds against players fighting for their chance.

This will give the pre-season a completely different completion to anything we’ve seen before and may lead to an advantage for teams with more veterans or established coaching staffs and schemes. With the Players Union still pushing for longer ramp-up period in camp, this may be subject to further change.

The Chiefs and Texans have already started their camps and Eagles’ rookies reported to camp on Tuesday for Coronavirus testing something that hasn’t been needed previously . League wide this could be a longer process than expected. Players will need to pass 2 tests and quarantine to get access to building. Even if all goes to plan, this could take significant time.

This different build up to the season should be expected to impact offensive and defensive lines the most. With limited physicality early on stripped right back, teams will need to be inventive with how they get these players up to speed.

Roster sizes expected to be 80 to start camp – I noticed the effects of this on prior to the official announcement, when Philadelphia start cutting players who had been expected to push for a roster spot. Former college quarterback, Khalil Tate, an exciting player withe ball in his hands, was expected to transition from quarterback to wide receiver to keep his NFL dreams alive. The reduction in roster size meant the Eagles were unable to have the luxury of a ‘project player’ in camp. I’d expect this to be the case across the league too.

With so much uncertainty the world over these tentative steps towards some sense of normality are welcomed. Increased open spaces and every necessary degree of protection will be taken in the hopes that there will be a 2020 season. For better or worse, the 2020 season will be unlike any other we’ve seen.

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