The NFL informed clubs Tuesday of two important developments for the normalization of the league calendar.
First, teams will be permitted to host fans at training camp this summer, subject to state and local guidelines, after keeping their doors closed during the pandemic-influenced camps of 2020. Second, all but two teams have now received approval from state and local governments to open their stadiums at full capacity when games resume.
Beyond those 28 stadiums that already have approval, the league also "feels good about the path" for the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, who are still working with their local contacts to receive final authorization, according to Peter O'Reilly, the NFL's executive vice president of club business and league events.
The looming return of a relatively normal year made for a rousing business presentation to club presidents during the first of a two-day virtual spring league meeting. The NFL-wide season-ticket renewal rate has been about 90%, according to Reilly, fueled by a surge in the 10 days since the league announced its 2021 schedule. Over that period, ticket sales have run at an 83% higher rate than they did in the same timeframe after the 2019 schedule release.
Meanwhile, training camps will open July 27 for 29 of the 32 teams. The Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be permitted to open earlier because they are participating in the Hall of Fame preseason game or the Sept. 9 regular-season kickoff game (or both, in Dallas' case). Negotiations are continuing with the NFL Players Association on a precise training camp protocol, but O'Reilly said he expected a few tweaks for fans compared with pre-pandemic years.
"It won't likely look exactly the same as a normal training camp as far as proximity to players and autographs and some of the other things," O'Reilly said. "But we're excited to be able to communicate that fans will be able to enjoy an accessible part of the calendar."
The NFL will not overlay a fan vaccination policy on top of any state and local regulation that might exist, O'Reilly said. Tentative plans are underway for a July 31 tentpole day for teams to officially welcome fans back to camp.
League executives will address owners Wednesday. Agenda items include a possible vote on a rule that would expand the area where low blocks are prohibited, as well as an update on vaccination rates among players and staff.