ProFootballDoc: Is the NFL Not Prepared to Start Training Camp?

JJ Watt took to social media with a not so subtle note, suggesting the NFL was fumbling away the start of the season.

The three-time Defensive Player in the Year used the MLBPA chant of “we want to play” when he implied that it may not happen. Two days before rookies report.

The new face of the league, Patrick Mahomes, also weighed in, unhappy with the situation.

Having spent almost two decades as a NFL team physician, I find it hard to believe the league is just going to be winging it. However, their messaging — or lack thereof — have contributed to the confusion. Truth be told, solid details of the NFL plan are emerging. They were clearly long in the works but only coming to light now. It could be seen as too little, too late for some.

We wrote about how players and coaches have not necessarily understood how the virus is spread. It is likely the players are simply not abreast of the planning for testing or safety protocols. 

The NFL has held a series of required meetings for team medical personnel regarding coronavirus. This is routine with any medical change and in these unprecedented times I guarantee they have been working overtime for months.

I know through my casual conversations with league medical personnel that the athletic trainers’ and infection control officers’ offseason has been dominated with work to be ready for the opening of training camp.

The fact that key players do not know the details of the plan is not an indictment. Likely that means that plans are not finalized in that some parts need agreement from the NFLPA to formally enact. 

For example, there is still not an agreement on preseason games and that scheduling certainly would affect the timing and testing protocols.

Indeed teams are having players report for testing on Monday as planned. Reporting will happen on time, but do not be surprised if the actual start to camps are delayed with COVID positives, quarantines and protocols getting in the way.

I am personally aware of players who are already in quarantine in preparation for testing and reporting. I know many coaches have already been tested and are ready to return to work.

I don’t doubt that there are still many details to be hashed out. This is a novel coronavirus and there is no established playbook and no one can anticipate the future. I understand why this could be disconcerting.

The best news is that as a player/leader, it is clear that Watt and others want to play as indicated by his first and last bullet point.

As a team doctor, I used to be amused when I was second-guessed in the public or the media as there would be key facts or assumption that were missing or incorrect. This is why I always say if a team does something that doesn’t make sense from the outside, it usually does from the inside as not all the facts are known.

The contractual questions are valid and above my pay grade. The ramp up to play will end up being a mutual decision between players/coaches/medical staff.

The players may not agree with all points of the coronavirus plan. I assure you the trillion-dollar business of the NFL has one, but the final version may not be published yet. Once Watt and others arrive at the team facility, they will see that for themselves.

Written by Dr. David Chao

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.


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  1. The NFL has turned into an over regulated safe space. Adulting grown men that would ordinarily ride a bicycle without a helmet are now acting as if the player’s union has all the power and no answers.

    They have no answers, because unions care about money and shifting liability.

    Maybe JJ should check his logo … I mean really check that logo j j what.

  2. Thank you, Doctor…sounds like we’re going to get the NFL in the Fall from what you’re telling us! That used to be all we needed to know. Now, a whole other set of issues to worry about (a different story for another day).

    • I have been saying since March to Clay on Fox Sports Radio that I was optimistic about the start of the NFL season on time. The worry is about finishing. I hope players social distance and we get this done safely.

  3. The NFL will figure it out. Goodell didn’t pull his pants down and apply all that lube to satisfy the BLM and the social justice crowd to just lay there by himself on the bearskin rug. He needs all the woke advertisers to finish the cuckolding. Huddle, up!

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