As we trudge forward through a heat wave in Colorado and the dog days of summer, Denver Broncos training camp is supposed to be right around the corner.
Of course, the worldwide pandemic due to COVID-19 not only has left training camp in jeopardy, but unless you’re fooling yourself, the NFL season as well.
Last week, the NFL decided to shorten their preseason from four games to two, cutting the exhibition and tune-up contests in half. And then, according to former quarterback Robert Griffin III, the preseason will be cut altogether.
No other sources have gone that far, but Jason La Canfora explained on Friday the NFL and NFLPA are at odds in terms of the preseason schedule as well as the structure of training camp.
NFL and NFLPA will discuss remaining re-srart issues next week with hope of resolving them. Making progress on testing protocols; still at odds on preseason games, structure of training camp
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) July 10, 2020
If the NFL eliminates the preseason entirely, things will be vastly different in America’s most popular sport this summer. Those preseason games are used not only as evaluation periods for backups and deep bench players — separating the studs from the duds — but they’re also used as tune-ups for starters.
In the case of the Broncos, Drew Lock — who only has five starts to his name — needs all the game experience he can get to continue to refine his craft. Overall, he enjoyed a solid five-game at the end of last season, but there are still areas of opportunity like footwork and his deep ball.
Plus, the Broncos completely overhauled their offense this offseason, adding wideout standout Jerry Jeudy in the first round and then speedy slot receiver K.J. Hamler in the second round as well. Plus, they signed two-trick pony Melvin Gordon to be the bell-cow in the backfield, with his ability to make plays both on the ground and through the air.
For the newcomers — and even youngsters like tight end Noah Fant, entering his second season — learning new coordinator Pat Shurmur’s offense could be a daunting task. And then, creating chemistry within the offense will be even more difficult without a proper training camp and preseason.
And, while Denver will be led once again by their defense in 2020, they shouldn’t take the turnover there for granted, either. The Broncos will have three new starters, including both cornerbacks, on defense this year.
For the league as a whole, preseason is a much-needed period to get the wrinkles ironed out. Without that, the NFL will undoubtedly look sloppier to begin the regular season, and maybe for the first month or so of games.
Of course, the bigger story there is: If the league is canceling preseason games, that could end up meaning canceling or at the very least postponing regular season games, too.
Considering America is currently the world-leader in cases of the Coronavirus, with numbers skyrocketing here while they have died down in most every other developed country in the world, the NFL regular season is in serious jeopardy of being played at all.
And when it comes to fans being in attendance, there’s a little update to report, too. Jacksonville has been approved to have 25% capacity this year:
In compliance with state and local authorities and following CDC social distancing guidelines, @TIAABankField will be able to seat approximately 25% of its capacity at each Jaguars home game in 2020.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) July 10, 2020
If the same is extended to the Broncos, that would mean approximately 19,000 fans per game at Mile High Stadium. The Broncos are the only team to sell out every one of their NFL games, dating back to 1970, so we know fans want to support their team.
But, in these unknown times, how many would want to actually show up?
Finally, according to Pro Football Talk, officials will be required to wear masks while on the field:
NFL referees plan to wear masks on the field https://t.co/KDutxgUev5
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 11, 2020
It seems to make sense in terms of keeping the multi-million dollar athletes safer, but, what about the older officials? If the players aren’t wearing masks, it leaves them more vulnerable.
Clearly, a lot of details still need to be hammered out before we can have football again. And in all likelihood, we’ll see some of the regular season either postponed or canceled this fall.