KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nobody really had any idea what training camp would like look until the NFL and its players’ union came to an agreement late last week to dramatically alter the collective bargaining agreement to ensure football in the age of the coronavirus.
Andy Reid might well have been the first one with a plan when the details were finally decided.
The coach of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs has always been a stickler for planning. He might take a couple weeks off once the season ends, but even at his offseason home in Southern California he can’t help but dream up plays and plot out practices.
So when the two sides agreed to begin training camp with an acclimation period, and laid out a plan to ramp up with pads midway through August and skip preseason games — well, Reid probably had a plan for it.
“He really has a focus on what to do and the right things to do,” said Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder, who followed Reid from the Eagles to the Chiefs seven years ago and is as close to him as anybody in the organization. “I’ve said this before: His dad was an artist. His mom was a doctor. He has the art and science down like nobody else.
“I’ve gotten off calls with the medical people and said, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to do this,'” Burkholder continued. “I call Andy and he says, ‘OK, we’re going to do it this way.’ That’s the art of the science.”
That’s not to say there weren’t times this offseason when Reid grew frustrated with the situation — every person in the world has probably felt that way. Reid usually has some kind of training camp plan in place by May, when rookies report for their minicamp and voluntary workouts are just beginning.
This year, the consummate hands-on teacher had to spend hours upon hours in front of computer monitors in his basement as he led virtual meetings with coaches, players and staff as the NFL grappled with how to proceed.
“He’s become a big, red-headed bear at times because he likes to lay things out,” Burkholder said. “He was struggling with the unknown from the league, and I was getting information from the medical before they went to the coaches. We had some late-night conversations, we would go through phantom schedules, and when it was all said and done, he came back to town and showed me his iPad and he had like, 20 different schedules. Any time they chance protocol, he changed the schedule.”
The league gave the Chiefs and Texans, who play in the season opener Sept. 10, the go-ahead to have rookies, quarterbacks and select veteran report last week. But they mostly went through COVID-19 testing, physicals and spent time getting their equipment in order. Very little actual work will take place until this week, when veterans arrive for their own testing.
The acclimatization period will include 60-minute workouts in the weight room and 60-minute conditioning workouts on the field, but with 15 players in a group at a time. Daily walk-throughs of limited length will also be allowed. After about a couple of weeks, camp ramps up with players allowed a maximum of 3 1/2 hours on the field each day. They also can begin to wear helmets and padded shirts, then helmets and shells, as they work toward mid-August padded practices.
“I appreciate the league and the union and then working out an agreement where football can go on in a safe manner and we can look forward to a season,” Reid said.
The Chiefs typically hold training camp at Missouri Western but were forced to move it to their practice facility because of the pandemic. And that may not be a bad thing in the end. Their facility itself has two outdoor grass fields, an indoor turf field and plenty of space for meetings, but it also sits across the parking lot from Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs intend to use the field and meeting spaces there to ensure proper social distancing throughout training camp.
“As far as the setup here, feeling like we’re in a safe environment, I think people have gone to great ends to do this,” Reid said. “We’re as safe as you can be here. Dedication and staying disciplined when you leave this facility will be important. When you’re here, this is a safe environment. You have to continue that once you leave here. That ends up being important and we have a plan for that, too, that we’ll talk tot he players about. I feel good about it.”