NFL teams are ramping up their preseason training camps as, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re moving steam full speed ahead towards the start of the 2020 regular season on Sept. 13.
Most NFL players reported to camp the past couple of weeks, undergoing COVID testing upon their arrival, along with being given physical examinations. They’ll spend the next couple of weeks doing strength and conditioning acclimation work, as well as classroom study of their respective playbooks. Actual practice sessions will begin Aug. 17 and with no preseason exhibition games this year, the first time NFL clubs take the field against an opponent will be when the regular season kicks off.
There has been some movement among former Mountaineers who are currently in NFL camps.
Wide receiver Shelton Gibson was recently released by the Philadelphia Eagles, and wide receiver David Sills was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list by the New York Giants on July 28. Being on the COVID list means a player has either tested positive for the coronavirus or has been in close contact with an infected individual. It’s not clear which category Sills falls in, but it does matter in how quickly he can return – there is a quarantine period of at least 10 days for those who tested positive (plus they have to be negative on two tests before being allowed to return) and rules call for eight days of self isolation with daily testing for those who were contact traced. At last report, 66 NFL players were on the reserve/COVID-19 list, including not only Sills, but also Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford and Jacksonville quarterback Gardner Minshew.
While Gibson has been cut and Sills is temporarily sidelined, another pair of former Mountaineers has found their way into NFL camps in the last week. Running back Wendell Smallwood, who spent three seasons with the Eagles (2016-18) and one with Washington (2019), has signed with Pittsburgh. He’s one of seven running backs on the Steelers’ current roster competing for what will likely be four final spots.
Also long snapper Rex Sunahara has signed with Miami. Sunahara is the only long snapper currently available on the Dolphins’ roster. Blake Ferguson, a sixth round draft pick this past summer from LSU, was expected to handle those snapping duties this year but he is on the reserve/COVID-19 list at the moment.
There are currently 25 former Mountaineers in NFL camps attempting to make the final rosters by the time cut downs are completed on Sept. 6.
Besides Sills, Smallwood and Sunaraha, other ex-West Virginia players competing for roster spots are:
Defensive back Dravon Askew-Henry, N.Y. Giants
Defensive back Hakeem Bailey, Kansas City
Offensive lineman Yodny Cajuste, New England
Wide receiver George Campbell, N.Y. Jets
Defensive back Rasul Douglas, Philadelphia
Offensive lineman Mark Glowinski, Indianapolis
Quarterback Will Grier, Carolina
Linebacker Bruce Irvin, Seattle
Wide receiver Gary Jennings, Miami
Defensive back Karl Joseph, Cleveland
Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, Las Vegas
Linebacker David Long, Tennessee
Offensive lineman Colton McKivitz, San Francisco
Offensive lineman Adam Pankey, Miami
Defensive back Kenny Robinson, Carolina
Quarterback Geno Smith, Seattle
Offensive lineman Quinton Spain, Buffalo
Defensive back Keith Washington, New Orleans
Fullback Elijah Wellman, Green Bay
Tight end Trevon Wesco, N.Y. Jets
Linebacker Kyzir White, L.A. Chargers
Defensive back Daryl Worley, Dallas