So long St. Joseph, Missouri. For now. Amid the rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the Kansas City area, Chiefs players will undergo testing this week before reporting Friday to the Truman Sports Complex for training camp.
The defending Super Bowl champions have prepared for a new season over the last 10 years at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph.
The NFL told its teams this summer to keep their training camps close to home before the start of the 2020 season. Rookies and quarterbacks, including Patrick Mahomes— the newly named co-owner of the Kansas City Royals — reported to the sports complex last week.
The Chiefs are splitting their activities between Arrowhead Stadium and their nearby indoor practice facilities and outdoor practice fields. With preseason games canceled, the Chiefs will continue that schedule until the Sept. 10 season opener against the Houston Texans looms.
“It’s a huge deal,” said Rick Burkholder, the Chiefs head athletic trainer.
Burkholder said the main precautions taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus around the sports complex are testing, sanitizing and social distancing.
Mahomes got an early look at the sports complex arrangements and came away impressed.
“It’s really made me feel even better than I thought coming in,” said Mahomes, who admitted some trepidation before reporting to camp. “Knowing how much the NFL and the NFLPA (the players union) have put into making sure that we can be as safe as we possibly can be, that put my mind at ease.”
For one thing, the Arrowhead Stadium concourses are being used as meeting rooms to keep players socially distant from coaches and staff. In the cafeteria setup, tables are spread out with only two or three chairs to a table. Though the preseason rosters have been cut from 90 to 80 this year because of the pandemic, it still creates a lot of space that’s needed to follow their guidelines.
Eventually on the field, there’ll be no getting around social distancing during drills.
Not everyone will be coming to camp or playing in the 2020-21 season. Starting offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first member of the Chiefs and in the NFL to opt out for safety reasons. Duvernay-Tardif, a Canadian who got his degree in medicine from McGill University in Montreal, has been working in medical facilities on the COVID-19 frontline during the offseason.
The other starter to sit out is running back Damien Williams, who scored the Chiefs’ final touchdown in the Super Bowl this year.