“It’s a tough situation because a lot of these guys have underlying health issues and so that’s a big concern for a lot of guys on this team,” Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green said last week before the NFL and NFLPA struck an agreement. “It’s tough. I don’t know how we’re gonna handle this when guys start getting it and what we’re gonna do when they get it. I just hope that we have a plan in place for each and every one of us.”
The Bengals have made changes to their facility and locker room to help with social distancing measures recommended by the CDC, according to Hobson’s report. Normally this is the time of year they bring in extra lockers to accommodate the 90-man roster; however, this year that number looks to be around 80.
Players are spread among four locker rooms and spaced apart with empty lockers between them. Also, position groups are not placed together in an effort to prevent any particular position from getting decimated in case of an outbreak. According to Hobson, one section of 12 lockers has only four nameplates, another row has six players for 15 spaces, the sauna and players’ lounge are both closed, and there are now two meal rooms with just two or three seats per table and a grab-and-go style of serving.
The players also will be handed tracking chips upon entering the stadium each day so movement in the building can be monitored in an effort to prevent spread. The NFLPA announced Saturday it had approved the Infectious Disease Emergency Plans (IDER) for the Bengals and 11 other teams, and by Monday the plans for 20 teams had been approved.
The new on-the-fly CBA also included guidelines to ensure players are behaving safely outside of the stadium and training facilities. According to a document shared on Twitter by ESPN’s Dan Graziano, players will be prohibited from indoor night clubs, indoor bars, indoor house parties with 15 or more people, indoor concerts, professional sporting events and indoor church services that allow attendance above 25 percent of capacity. Fines will be issued for violating rules, and a player who tests positive after engaging in prohibited activities will not be paid for games missed as a result.
“I feel like if they are letting us back in the building, they are going to do everything in their best interest to make sure this is OK,” Bengals left guard Mike Jordan said earlier this month. “I’m not going to do too much worrying.”
The return to play plan also laid out a training camp acclimation schedule, which includes the first six days being limited to COVID-19 testing and then physicals. Days 7-14 will cover strength and conditioning work only, and days 15-20 will involve practices in helmets and shells with no pads, according to ESPN.com. A maximum of 14 padded practices may be held, but none before Aug. 17. Additionally, there will be one off day per every seven days of work, and no preseason games for 2020.
Although on-field practices have not yet begun, some players already have been working out together. Trainer Patrick Coyne has been posting photos on social media indicating Burrow, Drew Sample, Sam Hubbard, D.J. Reader and Vonn Bell have been among the Bengals players working out at Black Sheep Performance training center in Cincinnati. Jordan has been working at PEAKFast in Erlanger, Ky., where some of his fellow linemen also train.
The Bengals and the other 31 teams in the league were limited to a virtual offseason because of COVID-19, so training camp will make their first official sessions together in 2020.