The Cleveland Browns joined the rest of the NFL this week with the first tentative steps toward opening training camps.
The league and players’ union have already reached an agreement to cancel the four preseason games, and while everyone is hopeful there will be a season, no one really knows if the league will be able to open as scheduled on September 10.
The Browns are embracing the challenge, however, and stayed busy reshaping the team’s facility prior to the players arriving for training camp. Among the changes, according to clevelandbrowns.com, are reducing the occupancy of the locker room from 90 players to 40, installing plexiglass between the spaced-out lockers, converting the weight room into a second locker room, moving the weight room to the field house, and providing pre-packaged meals in the cafeteria.
In addition, the coaches will continue to hold all meetings with players virtually until August 9, and divide players into two groups for their conditioning drills to help keep everyone socially distanced as much as possible.
All the work is being done to maximize the likelihood of having a season this fall, and co-owner Jimmy Haslam remains “cautiously optimistic” that can happen, he said on Friday during an appearance on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade:
“The NFL and Cleveland Browns, I think, have done a great job in terms of protocol and everything from testing to distancing. If you sat in our facility now versus going in last year, it looks completely different. So I will say this, we are all doing everything we possibly can to have pro football this year. I think we understand it’s a fluid world and there are no guarantees. But we are cautiously optimistic. And we believe the nation badly needs sports, particularly the NFL.”
It is good to know that the Browns are taking the situation seriously and the hope is that the rest of the league is as well, because as Joe Sheehan, senior vice president of player health and development for the Browns pointed out this past week on clevelandbrowns.com, having a season will take a collective effort:
“We are ultimately all in this together, and everyone really has to understand that every decision they make both inside the building and outside the building should be done in an attempt to mitigate the risk of the spread of the virus. We all kind of share that collective responsibility to our success, and we are all kind of looking forward to really working together to ensure we do that.”
There is still a ways to go and a lot of work to be done before the NFL opens up its regular season. But amidst all the uncertainty, Haslam hit on one thing that fans can all agree on.
We need the NFL to return.