A major hurdle in the way of Buffalo Bills training camp has been cleared. Briefing New Yorkers about the latest updates on the novel coronavirus, governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all pro sports teams in the state may begin their training camps, as long as they follow appropriate health protocols.
This doesn’t put the team all the way in the clear. The league policy, set up in the wake of COVID-19, says that teams cannot have players and coaches running football activities at their facilities until every state hosting each of the 32 clubs has approved those activities. As America begins to level out its coronavirus infections and states like California, Texas, Georgia, and Pennsylvania begin easing restrictions, the NFL will be tracking those announcements to give teams the okay.
When Bills training camp begins, it’ll probably look very different. Don’t be surprised if the Bills hold their camp at the team facility, rather than their traditional home at St. John Fisher college in Pittsford. The team will almost assuredly cut back opportunities for autographs and other fan-player interaction, a staple of training camps in recent history.
The question is whether teams will open up their camps again in the years after the pandemic recedes. Even before this crisis, the NFL was closing itself more and more to the public. In 2019, ten teams had fewer than ten open practices—and the Raiders didn’t have any. This situation will force teams to tightly control their preseason experience, and some may not want to go back.