The NFL is reportedly ready to move forward with a gradual reopening of team facilities, but Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wants to make sure everyone will be on equal footing when doors open up again.
As ESPN reported, the league sent a memo to all 32 teams this week, outlining the plan to allow teams to slowly reopen facilities, with the first phase scheduled to start on May 15. The league had previously delayed the start of offseason programs amid lockdown measures put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus, NFL.com reported.
But with the reopening now in sight, it is not clear if all teams would be able to start at the same time. A number of states have started to roll back restrictions and allow some smaller public gatherings as well as some businesses to reopen, but other states are on a longer timeline.
Tomlin said he thinks it's only fair to wait until all teams are able to start at the same time.
"I prescribe to the approach of competitive fairness within our game, and that is everybody gets an opportunity," the Steelers coach said in a conference call with reporters on Saturday. "Our game is extremely competitive. It's one of the things that make football at this level so attractive to our fans. I'm committed to preserving and protecting that, and so all teams getting an opportunity to start on the same footing is a core element of that."
The ESPN report noted that the memo sent to teams this week did not reference a previous league policy that said facilities could not reopen until every team had the green light from their respective states to do so.
Tomlin said it would be important to abide by that rule.
"Those are the two key components for us. We're in a wait-and-see mindset, and we'll be ready to go when both boxes are checked," Tomlin said.As ESPN noted, the Steelers have gotten a bit creative in conducting their offseason program, taking the normal rookie mini camp and moving it online. The team's draft class and undrafted free agents have been meeting in online classrooms to receive team and position-group instruction, the report noted.
While the future is uncertain for other major American sports leagues still on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak, the NFL said it plans to move forward with starting the season on time, and this week released the 2020 schedules for teams.