The NFL has no start date yet but young players will be hurt by a shortened off-season.
When the NFL finally returns to the field, there may not be much of an off-season left if at all. In fact, there may not be much time for training camp. There will be plenty of players hurt by this.
Players rely on NFL off-seasons to impress the coaching staff. Last year, Preston Williams was able to use the mini-camps and OTAs to get himself noticed and when training camp arrived, the coaching staff were paying attention. That full off-season worked out well for Wilson who had an entire training camp and four preseason games to earn a roster spot. That may not happen this year for some other young players.
Consider that this year, a shortened training camp will likely lead to less pre-season games. There is already some talk about preseason games being reduced to two. If that is the case, players on the bottom of rosters, especially undrafted rookies, are not going to have time to make the right impression. Every rep will need to count and one mistake could send a guy packing.
Ted Karras talked a little about this earlier today on a virtual press conference the Miami Dolphins held.
"“Every game is really important, but having two games instead of four to stand out as a guy – especially in any type of competition – definitely kind of raises the stakes; but our job is to play football and whenever we can get the opportunity, you’ve got to go out there and play your best and do your best. It’s definitely going to be more limited reps and definitely ramp the competition up because less reps for guys. That’s how you make the team, so it’s going to be an interesting training camp just like everything this year is very unique. We’re just going to have to adapt as players to perform our best.” – Ted Karras via Miami Dolphins virtual press conference."
This is going to create a problem for some veterans too. Not all the players who have years of experience are going to find it easier to make a roster. A veteran who may or may not be in a team’s long-term plans may find coaches more likely to risk less by giving a roster spot to a cheaper option instead. That veteran can’t afford to make many mistakes either.
The NFL is going to face an interesting return to football this year and I would suspect that we will see more released players coming back later and veterans who would typically be expected to make rosters, find themselves looking for work if they don’t come in ready to go. As Karras said, every rep is going to count. That is very true for this season.