Despite continued uncertainty, Lions rookies set to report to training camp this week
Allen Park — While many of the league's top players are taking to social media to express concerns about the league's safety protocols ahead of the start of training camps later this month, the majority of NFL rookies are still slated to report on Tuesday.
Late last week, the league held a call with all 32 teams, laying out the plan for the upcoming offseason in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"We will continue to implement the health and safety protocols developed jointly with the NFLPA, and based on the advice of leading medical experts, including review by the CDC," the league said in a statement. "We will address additional issues in a cooperative way. All decisions will be made in an effort to put us in position to play a full regular season and postseason culminating with the Super Bowl which is the shared goal of the clubs and the players."
But over the weekend, players coalesced under the hashtag #wewanttoplay, using it as a platform to share concerns about how player safety issues are being addressed.
Houston Texans All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt attempted to summarize player issues, including criticism of the proposed acclimation period, uncertainty whether any preseason games will be conducted, how frequently players will be tested for the virus and a fair opt-out option for players or players with family members at higher risk of being affected by the virus.
In a call with national media Friday, NFLPA president J.C. Tretter said the league needs to do more.
“So the idea that this is going to go away with the snap of a finger and you don’t have to change, that’s not going to fly,” Tretter said during a the call. “Everything needs to be revamped and refitted to fit coronavirus. We can’t refit coronavirus around football.”
The two sides reached an agreement on testing Monday afternoon. Players will need two negative tests within a 72-hour window before they are permitted to enter a team facility. And for the first two weeks of training camp, players are to be tested daily.
After two weeks, if the team maintains a positive test rate below five percent, testing can be reduced to every other day. If, at any point, a team exceeds a five percent positive rate, they must continue daily testing for another two weeks.
In regards to preseason games, the NFL initially proposed a reduction from the standard four-game slate to two. After the union countered with zero, the league came back with a one-game proposal, according to an NFL Network report.
Additionally, the league has submitted a number of travel protocols, including the requirement of masks on planes, no more than 50 percent capacity on buses, no visitors to team hotels outside of the traveling party and no leaving the hotel to eat.
Despite having several details to iron out, the league continues to push forward with its July 28 universal report date for veterans players, with the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs rookies reporting on Monday and the rest of the league's first-year players checking in starting on Tuesday.
For nearly all of those rookies, it will be their first in-person visit to their teams' facilities. For the past several months, the league has conducted its offseason virtually, from the draft through OTAs and minicamp.
For the Detroit Lions, that means getting their first up-close look at cornerback Jeff Okudah, who the team selected with the No. 3 overall pick out of Ohio State in April.
The Lions remain hopeful Okudah's learning curve will be lessened due to his schematic familiarity from his time at Ohio State.
"His position coach last year, (current Boston College head coach) Jeff Hafley, is a good friend of mine," Lions coach Matt Patricia said in May. "We’ve actually coached a lot of the same techniques for a long time, which is something for us that was really interesting about (Okudah), even going up and into the draft. Having a guy that we knew was very familiar with our techniques and we thought that it would help us in the long run, so that’s one of the things that I think really contributed to the decision for us to bring him along."
Lions general manager Bob Quinn also expressed similar optimism earlier this offseason regarding Okudah's potentially rapid development.
"I would hope that Jeff Okudah would come in and start day one," Quinn said. "I sure hope so. But listen, if we don’t have an offseason program, would it take him a couple of weeks? Maybe. You never know. But I think he’s a very mature kid, very smart football-wise. I mean, I’m very confident that even if we do a virtual offseason program for six weeks, he’ll know enough of our defense to be a very capable player very, very early in his rookie season."