Updated June 11, 2020 - 3:59 pm
By the time the Raiders report to start training camp in July at their new practice facility in Henderson, it likely will have been more than 210 days since the last time they were together as a team.
The NFL essentially made that official Wednesday night by canceling in-person minicamps due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The pandemic has already impacted each team’s normal offseason program, forcing coaches and players to virtually conduct their Organized Team Activities through social communications platforms like Zoom and Skype. And while there was hope that the process of reopening team facilities to coaches and players could happen in time for teams to have minicamps, the NFL told clubs in a memo that was no longer feasible.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell explained his decision in a leaguewide email in which he also shed light on the latest information on dealing with COVID-19.
“As you know, we have been working with the NFLPA and several joint medical task forces to develop protocols that will permit football activities safely to resume at club facilities,” Goodell wrote in the memo. “To date, we have finalized protocols governing the operation of facilities and establishing mandatory educational programs for players and essential football personnel. Protocols addressing testing, treatment, training camp, travel and games will be finalized and distributed in the near term.
“Although under a traditional schedule, mandatory minicamps are scheduled to open next week, after discussion with the CDC, we have concluded that it would be prudent not to hold in-person minicamps under the current circumstances and have instead determined to extend the virtual period through and including June 26.”
It will be up to each team to decide whether it continues virtual training sessions through the new deadline.“We will keep working till the end,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said.
Goodell told the 32 clubs that the league will continue working with the NFLPA “to conclude the remaining protocols and finalize arrangements for the safe opening of training camps next month.”
He also reiterated that players are still prohibited from returning to their facilities.
“With the only exception being players that require active rehabilitation or medical treatment as certified by the club’s Head Team Physician, as set forth in my June 7 memorandum,” Goodell said in the memo. “Receiving treatment and rehabilitation at the club facility during this period is voluntary for players. Alternatively, clubs are free to continue to arrange for such injured players to receive treatment from outside medical service providers.”
With in-person OTA’s and minicamp not permissible, Raiders players have taken it upon themselves to organize unofficial practices at local Las Vegas parks to get in some on-field work.
The impromptu practices have been spearheaded by quarterback Derek Carr and involve upwards of 20 or so players. Players began working out last month.
While it isn’t unusual for NFL players to form offseason practice groups beyond what they do at team facilities, the Raiders’ workouts take on even more importance due to the COVID-19 restrictions and the fact they are making the official move from Oakland to Las Vegas this year.
“The guys that are part of the group, they don’t need any extra motivation,” said Raiders tight end Darren Waller. “No one needs that extra talk. Guys are here, and they’re excited to be here. That’s a good quality to have, especially this early in the process of a season. Because it really does start this early when you have goals of playing into February.”