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NFL Announces Coaches can Return to Team Facilities

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that coaching staffs may return to team facilities Friday, June 5 in a memo issued to teams Thursday morning.

Staying consistent with their message throughout the reopening process, coaches may return only if clubs have “received necessary permission from state and local governments.”

Clubs were informed last week that coaches will count towards the maximum number of employees permitted in facilities, but the total number allowed will increase from 75 to 100 tomorrow as well.

While Goodell has not yet announced when all players will be cleared to return, he did add that the league is still working “with clubs medical staffs to implement a program of COVID-19 testing” prior to players coming back.

Injured and rehabbing players were some of the first who received the green light to return to team facilities, and have been back for a few weeks now.

Club facilities were initially closed by the league back on March 25 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While coaches are likely eager to return to their team facilities, they should make themselves comfortable for the long haul.

Goodell’s memo comes a day after multiple reports that the league informed franchises they must conduct training camp from their practice facilities this August.

This would mean the Steelers will be prepping for the season on the South Side, instead of making a 55th-consecutive trip to St. Vincent College in Latrobe.

NFL

Chase Claypool’s Madden 21 Rating Released

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As is tradition, the Madden video game franchise has begun releasing rookie ratings for the 2020 iteration of the game, including for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool.

Claypool clocks in at 70 overall, which is solid for a second-round wideout. He is ranked as the seventh-best rookie receiver in the game, tied with four others.

Still, the true story with Claypool’s rating requires a little deeper digging. By the look of his attributes, it appears EA believes Claypool will be a mismatch on the real and virtual gridirons this season.

The Notre Dame-product received a speed rating of 92, along with 89 acceleration. At 6-foot-4, 238-pounds, Claypool’s combination of size and speed has Madden players salivating, and hopefully is an indication of what he will provide to the actual Steelers in 2020.

Known for his ability to win high-point balls at his impressive height, Claypool holds the highest jump attribute among all rookie wide receivers at 95.

Claypool also holds the second-highest strength and run blocking ratings in the class at 71 and 56, respectively, which were to be expected considering his imposing frame and elite blocking shown on film.

With regards to receiver specific stats, Claypool received some average, but solid marks. He boasts a 79 catch rating, along with good spectacular catch and catch-in-traffic numbers at 84. Still, his route running leaves some room for improvement with a 73 on short and deep routes, and a 71 on intermediate patterns.

Overall, Claypool’s Madden 21 rating is a strong debut, and his unique skill set should make him a fun player for gamers to utilize all season.

Steelers fans and Madden junkies alike can check out all of Claypool’s ratings and compare him with the rest of the 2020 rookie wide receivers here.

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Report: NFL Bans Jersey Swaps, Releases Additional Protocols

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The NFL is prohibiting postgame interactions within six feet during the 2020 season, which includes a ban on jersey swaps between players, according to a report by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

The jersey exchange ban came last night in a new list of game day protocols sent to clubs from the league and NFLPA.

In addition to the ban on postgame fraternizing, other changes of note announced in the league’s new protocols include an end to on-field seating, a requirement for teams to travel to stadiums by bus and the barring of media members from locker rooms.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport also reported that coaches and players on the sideline will not have to wear a mask, but that any additional personal would be required too.

While the additional protocols make sense in the grand scheme of the league’s plan to combat COVID-19, the ban on jersey exchanges appears to be a contradiction.

As outlined by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman on Twitter Thursday, some feel this does not make much sense that players would be permitted to play a three-hour football game, but are not allowed to talk and swap jerseys after games.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson also voiced his displeasure with the new protocol, calling the rule “silly,” before echoing Sherman’s sentiments.

Sherman and Watson have a point. If the threat of players spreading the virus is that serious — even with the battery of testing administered by the league — the likelihood of contraction is just as prevalent during the four quarters of the actual game as it is in postgame interactions.

While the league is clearly doing all they can to ensure football happens safely and responsibly this fall, the jersey exchange ban seems like an overreaction when there is so much work still to be done.

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Steelers Will Require Fans to Wear Masks, Announce Season Ticket Refund Option

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The Pittsburgh Steelers announced in an email to season ticket holders Wednesday evening they will provide a full-refund option for the 2020 campaign. The team also said that fans will be required to wear masks at Heinz Field if they are in attendance this year.

In addition to offering a full refund, the Steelers stated that season ticket holders will not lose their ability renew their seat locations for the 2021 season.

The organization is still optimistic fans will be in attendance at Heinz Field this year, stating they are “working with both the NFL and public health officials on how fans can attend games in a safe manner.”

While the team would prefer to have the stands full in 2020, the Steelers anticipate “working with a reduced capacity scenario,” as well as the mask requirement. They did not provide an estimate of what the reduced attendance figure would ultimately be.

“Our goal is to still have fans at Heinz Field this year with the understanding that social distancing, as well as all fans being required to wear masks, will play a role in the capacity to ensure a safe atmosphere,” Steelers Director of Communications Burt Lauten said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the NFL and public health officials to finalize plans for fans to attend our home games.”

With rumors that the 2020 preseason slate will be shortened, the Steelers will also refund fans who purchased tickets for any preseason games that do end up being cancelled.

While season tickets are usually sent out in late July, the team will “employ a digital ticketing solution to allow for flexibility” as they and the league navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are communicating with our season ticket holders to make them aware of the digital ticketing process we will employ this season at Heinz Field for a more flexible solution as we prepare for potential reduced capacity,” Lauten added. “We will continue the process of allowing our fans to opt out of their 2020 season tickets if they feel they are uniquely affected by the current situation.”

Pittsburgh’s update comes just hours after the rival Baltimore Ravens released contingencies of their own for a potentially coronavirus-altered 2020 season. The Ravens plan to limit available seating to 14,000 per game if fans are allowed to attend in adherence of social distancing guidelines.

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