Steelers' Mike Tomlin: NFL Team Facilities Should Open at Same Time for Fairness

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin speaks after an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Steelers won 23-17. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Saturday the NFL shouldn't reopen team facilities amid the coronavirus pandemic until all 32 organizations are cleared to resume football activities.

"I prescribe to the approach of competitive fairness within our game, and that is everybody gets an opportunity," Tomlin told reporters. "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."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to NFL teams Wednesday providing details about the potential reopening of facilities, which have been closed since March 25. He said franchises should have plans in place by May 15.

"The protocols are intended to allow for a safe and phased reopening," Goodell wrote. "The first phase would involve a number of non-player personnel. ... No players would be permitted in the facility except to continue a course of therapy and rehabilitation that was underway when facilities were initially closed."

NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy released a statement with the memo saying the league remains committed to reopening only when all teams are allowed based on state guidelines.

"That principle remains intact," he said. "... It's anticipated there will be further discussion on the reopening of facilities at the May 19 league owners virtual meeting."

Meanwhile, teams have moved forward with their offseason programs in virtual formats.

Tomlin described the challenges of not having direct contact with players, especially rookies who went through the Steelers' minicamp starting Friday:

"The evaluation of their ability to absorb information, their retention of the information is probably the most significant difference from working in this setting. It's much more difficult to get the feedback, to get a feel if somebody is receiving the information when you're working remotely than it is when you're dealing with somebody in an intimate space. It's not about the material or the amount of material that we can give, it's about the tools of evaluating what they learn, how they learn and reinforcing what we give them is the most challenging element of the circumstances."

The NFL has moved forward with plans to start the 2020 season in September. The schedule was released Thursday, and the Houston Texans and reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will open Week 1 on Sept. 10.

Whether fans will be in attendance is one of many unanswered questions.