NFL Training Camp In A Pandemic: A day in the life of the Houston Texans


Opening night: one month from tonight. The Houston Texans likely will be significant underdogs at Super Bowl champion Kansas City, and rightfully so. But the important thing in 2020 is something else, on the weekend we passed 5 million documented COVID-19 cases as a country. It’s actually whether Houston-Kansas City, and the 268 NFL games after that, will be played.

“I believe Week 1 will happen,” J.J. Watt told me the other day. “I’m optimistic.”

I think so too. There’s good reason to be optimistic, at least for this season to kick off. The NFL Players Association reported that as of Thursday, 56 players had tested positive for the virus, including pre-camp and daily testing once camp started; the majority of those players returned to their teams, virus-free. But the key, obviously, will be how players handle more post-training-camp freedom once they’re in regular-season mode.

More about a new twist, a potential COVID-19 kitchen cabinet for Roger Goodell, later in the column. On Thursday, I spent the day virtually with the Houston Texans, to see what a team is going through to prepare for a most unusual season. Talk about enlightening. My day included learning about facial-recognition software, John Lewis, Rock The Vote, a schedule accommodating five distinct teams-within-a-team, the mental guilt of players and staff about bringing the virus into a team, what the biggest adjustment to COVID camp is for a head coach, one hour (just one hour) spent together as a team all day, and a rookie from Penn State who seems pretty wise.

A day in the life of an NFL team . . . in a pandemic:

4:30 a.m.

Geoff Kaplan, the Infection Control Officer of the Houston Texans, wakes up—no alarm needed—in the guest room of his Houston home. Guest room, in his own home? Kaplan is married with 17 and 15-year-old sons, but for the last two weeks, while he tries to keep COVID-19 out of his own house and tries to avoid carrying it into an NFL practice facility, the guest room has been his room. “I can’t ask my sons and my wife to not live their lives,” Kaplan said. “This is a way to protect them, and to protect me.”

Kaplan set the alarm for 4:45 just for insurance, but didn’t need it. Because when Kaplan begins to stir on training camp mornings this year, he finds himself a little jittery, thinking, What type of curveball will I be thrown today? He’s the point of the spear for the Texans on COVID-19, and if any of the 180 Texans’ players/coaches/staff test positive for the coronavirus, there will be an overnight email from the NFL’s testing lab, BioReference Labs, in his Texans inbox informing him. Thus the reason for reaching for his phone when he wakes up, first thing. Every morning.

Good news this morning: no email from BioReference. For the eighth straight day, the Texans have zero positive tests for COVID-19. Kaplan will wait for a more expansive email with a spreadsheet of every Texan test—that lands in his box at 6:05 a.m. daily, like clockwork—before informing coach Bill O’Brien and executive VP Jack Easterby the team has gone another day COVID-free. Impressive so far, but opening day at Super Bowl champion Kansas City is exactly five weeks away, and Kaplan, the COVID gatekeeper for an NFL playoff team, knows there are no medals for a perfect testing day on Aug. 6. He’s got to have five more months, somehow, of keeping an NFL team in a COVID hotspot on the field.

“This is truly one of the biggest challenges in NFL history,” Kaplan said. “And we’re all in this together.”

5:13 a.m.

O’Brien in his car, on the 10-minute drive to team offices at NRG Stadium, thinks about the text he’ll get from Kaplan, wondering if the winning streak in testing will continue. But O’Brien is really thinking more about his roster. Strange thing, but this is still NFL training camp, and O’Brien has to prepare for a season, regardless the oddness of it. In this season, he’ll value versatility more than in a normal year, because of the potential in any week of any number of players being lost to injuries or COVID-19. “Versatility of positions is big,” O’Brien said. “I’ve been thinking about that a lot these days—a guy being able to do two or three different things.” Or more. Like second-year fullback/special-teamer Cullen Gillaspia, who will get practice reps this month at running back, tight end, and in an empty backfield. “You got to plan it out. What happens if one week you lose two or three running backs?” O’Brien said.

That’s what a coach thinks about on the way to work in a pandemic. He also thinks about what the looming text from his Infection Control Officer will say, and whether O’Brien will get a surprise today at 3 p.m. That’s the deadline for players who want to opt out of playing this year because of COVID fears. He thinks he’s in the clear, but he’s not sure. And one or two players have been thinking quite hard about it.

Read more in Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here.

NFL quarterback rankings 2023: Chris Simms’ top 40 QB countdown ahead of upcoming NFL season


While the NFL is a league that is ever-changing, some things are set to stay the same in 2023 — like the revealing of Chris Simms’ top 40 QB countdown.

Last year’s list saw Josh Allen take his place atop the quarterback throne, with Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Los Angeles’ Justin Herbert not far behind at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. It was, however, Mahomes who would ultimately reign over all NFL quarterbacks at the end of the season, as the 27-year-old collected both the NFL MVP honors and his second Lombardi Trophy.

This NFL offseason, however, has brought some intriguing adjustments that are likely to shake up Simms’ rankings.

While some signal-callers such as Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson found their prolonged home with massive contract signings, others will be venturing to a new franchise in search of a fresh start. Aaron Rodgers‘ trade to the New York Jets is unquestionably the most staggering shift, but other quarterbacks on the move such as Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo cannot be forgotten.

RELATED: Mike Florio gives an inside look into the Lamar Jackson deal

And with three of the first four picks in the 2023 NFL Draft being spent on a quarterback, emerging talent will likely turn the tides for some franchises this upcoming season.

See below for Chris Simms’ top 40 QB countdown ahead of the upcoming season. Be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for more on the 2023 NFL season as well as an unfiltered look at the NFL featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown and stories from a life in and around football.

RELATED: Peter King’s latest offseason NFL power rankings

Chris Simms’ 2023 Top 40 QB Countdown:

40. Desmond Ridder (ATL)

39. Sam Howell (WAS)

38. Bryce Young (CAR)

37. CJ Stroud (HOU)

36. Anthony Richardson (IND)

35. Mike White (MIA)

34. Gardner Minshew (IND)

33. Taylor Heinicke (ATL)

32. Jarrett Stidham (DEN)

31. Jordan Love (GB)

30. Davis Mills (HOU)

29. Tyler Huntley (BAL)

28. Andy Dalton (CAR)

27. Sam Darnold (SF)

26. Brock Purdy (SF)

25. Kenny Pickett (PIT)

24. Baker Mayfield (TB)

23. Justin Fields (CHI)

22. Jimmy Garoppolo (LV)

21. Tua Tagovailoa (MIA)

20. Mac Jones (NE)

19. Kyler Murray (AZ)

18. Derek Carr (NO)

17. Jared Goff (DET)

16. Ryan Tannehill (TEN)

15. Geno Smith (SEA)

14. Russell Wilson (DEN)

13. Dak Prescott (DAL)

12. Kirk Cousins (MIN)

11. Daniel Jones (NYG)

10. Matthew Stafford (LAR)

9. Deshaun Watson (CLE)

8. Aaron Rodgers (NYJ)

7. Jalen Hurts (PHI)

6. Trevor Lawrence (JAX)

5. Lamar Jackson (BAL)

2023 NFL Schedule Release: Start time, how to watch, live stream, channel


With another exciting NFL Draft in the books, teams can now turn their gaze toward the road to Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas. The path to Super Bowl glory, however, is about to become abundantly more clear with the 2023 NFL season schedule release.

This year’s NFL season schedule release is nearly here, with the entirety of the 2023 NFL schedule being unveiled on Thursday, May 11 at 8 p.m. ET on both Peacock and NFL Network. See below for everything you need to know for one of the offseason’s most anticipated events.

RELATED: Click here for full analysis on Rounds 1-7 of the 2023 NFL Draft

When will the 2023 NFL season schedule be released?

While all 272 matchups have been known since the conclusion of the 2022 regular season, the order and dates for these games have remained a mystery. The secret is nearly out, however, with every NFL game on the brink of revelation.

The full 2023 NFL schedule will be released on Thursday, May 11 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

How can I watch the 2023 NFL season schedule release?

The 2023 NFL season schedule release will take place Thursday, May 11 on Peacock, NFL Network, and the NFL app at 8 p.m. ET.

While the entirety of the schedule will be unveiled at that time, select games have already been and will continue to be released prior to the official event. Ahead of the 2023 NFL season schedule release, the following games will be announced:

Who will play in the 2023 NFL Kickoff game?

The first game of the 2023-24 NFL season will see the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs take the field in Arrowhead Stadium.

The opponent that will meet Patrick Mahomes and company in Kansas City, however, remains to be revealed.

Which NFL teams have international games in 2023?

While the majority of the matchups set to take place next season have yet to be announced, the league has already revealed which teams will head overseas for international showdowns.

Below is the full list of international NFL games for the 2023-24 season, with three in London, U.K., and two in Frankfurt, Germany.

Falcons vs. Jaguars: Week 4, Oct. 1 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Wembley Stadium in London, U.K.

Jaguars vs. Bills: Week 5, Oct. 8 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, U.K.

Ravens vs. Titans: Week 6, Oct. 15 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, U.K.

Dolphins vs. Chiefs: Week 9, Nov. 5 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Frankfurt Stadium in Frankfurt, Germany

Colts vs. Patriots: Week 10, Nov. 12 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Frankfurt Stadium in Frankfurt, Germany

RELATED: NFL’s 2023 international games full of “star power”

When is the Super Bowl and where will it be taking place?

Stars will be shining bright in Las Vegas, Nevada, for Super Bowl LVIII, set to take place on Feb. 11, 2024, at the home of the Raiders in Allegiant Stadium.

This will be the first Super Bowl to ever take place in Las Vegas, which hosted the 2023 Pro Bowl and 2022 NFL Draft.

Be sure to follow ProFootballTalk for the latest news, updates, and storylines about the upcoming NFL season!