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Packers rookies set to report to Lambeau Field on Thursday

Jim Owczarski
Packers News
Matt LaFleur had hoped to get rookies to Lambeau Field on Tuesday, but now they're scheduled to report Thursday for coronavirus testing.

In early June, Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur had planned on getting rookies into Lambeau Field for the first time Tuesday, with training camp opening a week later on July 28. It was a grace period built in after the cancellation of all of the spring camps and organized team activities, but PackersNews.com learned from a league source the team never set a hard date for the freshman class to report.

Instead, league sources said rookies were told they could head to Green Bay for coronavirus testing beginning on Thursday.

The final hurdle the Packers must clear for that to happen, however, is for the team's infectious disease emergency response (IDER) plan to be approved by the NFL Players Association regarding COVID-19 prevention, testing and management of positive cases. 

According to the NFLPA, it had approved seven IDER plans and were reviewing 18 as of Monday afternoon. Seven teams had not submitted one to the union at that point. 

The notification to Packers rookies came on the heels of the National Football League and the players association agreeing on key safety-related protocols for the start of training camp on Monday afternoon.

Once the Packers’ IDER plan is approved they can have more than 20 players in the building, and testing for COVID-19 begins. 

This approval is all that stands in the way of the Packers resuming activities at Lambeau Field, as there are no separate health requirements to meet for Brown County or the state.

“We have a schedule that the league wants to stick to,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said Friday in a news conference with the Pro Football Writers of America. “And right now, they’ve made the decision that they want training camp to open on time. Therefore, the role of the union is to hold them accountable on whether it is safe and to what extent it is safe to open training camp now.”

The Packers already have announced that they will not house players or eat at St. Norbert College during training camp and no fans will be permitted at practices. Joint practices with the Cleveland Browns had also been tabled.

Following the resolution of safety-related discussions, attention turns to financial negotiations to truly get training camp started.

Late Monday, multiple reports indicated the NFL proposed eliminating all preseason games. PackersNews.com had confirmed two preseason games had already been taken off the schedule.

According to NFL Media, the league has proposed a $40 million reduction in player costs and benefits to mitigate shortfalls caused by the pandemic. Various roster amendments have also been discussed, such as an Aug. 1 deadline for players to opt out of the season as well as roster, practice squad and injured reserve adjustments.

“There is a straight line between getting the health and safety question right, getting the overall economics right, and how that relates to contracts, opt-outs, IR, short-term IR, whether COVID is a workplace injury, whether it would constitute a failed physical,” Smith said. “There is literally a straight line that starts with getting the health and safety issues right that then are tied to all those other issues.”

The Packers are currently scheduled to open their season Sept. 12 against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.