The NFL is slowly preparing to reopen team practice facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, something NFL commissioner Roger Goodell informed teams of in a memo this week.
At this point, however, only some states and regions in the country are beginning to lift stay-at-home orders and other coronavirus-related restrictions. If the NFL were to allow teams to open facilities back up, but a state order would prohibit certain teams from doing so, it could create a significant disadvantage.
So, in the spirit of “competitive fairness,” Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wants to make sure that all teams reopen their practice facilities at the same time.
“I prescribe to the approach of competitive fairness within our game, and that is everybody gets an opportunity,” Tomlin said Saturday, via ESPN. “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.”
Goodell laid out protocols every team must have in place to gradually reopen their respective facilities in the memo, the first phase of which he wants in place by May 15. That phase is a soft opening, allowing just a small number of non-player personnel back in team facilities ahead of when they can formally reopen them. Only players who were rehabbing injuries before the team facilities closed would be allowed back in at this time, and social distancing practices will be implemented.
There was no specific date for when teams can expect to reopen their respective practice facilities in that memo, nor was there any mention of a rule that would prohibit teams from doing so until all 32 teams were allowed to do so — something that was previously included in NFL policy.
There were more than 1.3 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Saturday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more than 78,000 deaths attributed to the virus.
‘We’re in a wait-and-see mindset’
More protocols are expected to come later this month after team owners have their virtual league meeting. The NFL, though, is in no rush to make any decisions like its baseball and basketball counterparts are, as the season isn’t set to start until September.
The NBA allowed teams in markets where stay-at-home orders had been lifted to open their facilities Friday, though only two did so. More are planning to open next week, but some have opted to remain closed even with local stay-at-home restrictions lifted. It still has no set plan to resume its season, which was suspended on March 11.
At this point, Tomlin said, teams will have to just wait and see how best to move forward.
He wants to make sure, though, that all 32 teams take those steps together.
“There’s a couple things that we’re committed to adhering to, and that’s the global approach of the National Football League in regards to football ops and how important competitive fairness is in our game,” Tomlin said, via ESPN. “We all got to get started on the same footing in that regard. Then, also, respecting our local government and the guidelines they prescribe individually in terms of workplace safety.
“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.”
More from Yahoo Sports: