The NFL will cut its preseason in half and push back the start of exhibition play so teams have more time to train following a virtual offseason made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press.
The person spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the league hasn’t announced that the preseason will be cut from four games to two.
Players are still discussing with their union whether to ask for cancellation of all preseason games, according to two people familiar with their thinking. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity because a decision hasn’t been made.
The pandemic forced teams to conduct their entire offseason programs via videoconference. So, teams will be gathering together for the first time when training camps open July 28.
Minus the usual minicamps, on-field practices and in-person weight training from April to June, players’ conditioning won’t be what it normally is. So, eliminating the first week of preseason games Aug. 13-16 will give them more time to ratchet up their football fitness.
Teams will now play exhibitions Aug. 20-24 and Aug. 27-31 during what were originally the second and third weeks of exhibition play, with all 32 teams playing one home and one road game.
Most of those games will remain the same as originally scheduled, although some matchups in that second slate will have to be changed so every team gets a game at home.
The exhibition finales on Sept. 3 were also scrapped, giving teams more time to get ready for the regular season, which opens Sept. 10 with Houston at Kansas City.
There are no changes to the regular season schedule.
The league continues to draw up protocols, not only for COVID-19 mitigation but for ramping up practices during the first few weeks of training camp.
The annual Hall of Fame Game pitting Pittsburgh and Dallas on Aug. 6 was recently scrapped as the induction ceremonies were pushed back to 2021.
Packers sign top 2 picks
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers said Wednesday they have signed Utah State quarterback Jordan Love and Boston College running back A.J. Dillon, their top two draft picks.
Green Bay gave the Miami Dolphins a fourth-round draft choice to move up four spots in the first round and take Love 26th overall in the April draft. The Packers chose Dillon at No. 62.
Both selections were somewhat surprising because the Packers already have two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and Aaron Jones at running back. Jones tied Tennessee’s Derrick Henry for the NFL lead in touchdown runs (16) and matched Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey for first place in total touchdowns (19) last season.
Love is considered the eventual heir apparent to the 36-year-old Rodgers. Dillon provides some insurance with Jones’ contract set to expire in 2021.
Love was the first offensive player the Packers have drafted in the first round since the team took Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod with the 32nd overall pick in 2011. Love threw 32 touchdown passes and only six interceptions for Utah State in 2018, though he followed that up by producing 20 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions last year.
Dillon rushed for 4,382 yards and 38 touchdowns in his three-year college career, including 1,685 yards and 14 scores last season.
The Packers also announced Wednesday that coronavirus concerns will prevent them from making their annual summer trip to St. Norbert College, which had hosted the players for training camp since 1958.
Green Bay instead will have its entire training camp operations at Lambeau Field. Housing arrangements are still being finalized.