The NFL reportedly wants to cut the 2020 preseason in half.
It shouldn't, at this stage, take away the Raiders’ exhibition return to the Bay Area.
The NFL wants to eliminate the Weeks 1 and 4 opponents from the schedule, according to a Wednesday Pro Football Talk report, leaving the Raiders-49ers clash on the schedule.
NFL Network, however, says the player's union has yet to sign off on the switch. In fact, they may want exhibition games eliminated altogether.
While the expectation for weeks has been the NFL goes to two preseason games, the NFLPA hasn’t signed off. and some in union leadership continue to question whether it’s smart to play ANY preseason games, sources tell me and @TomPelissero. Board of reps call Thursday. Stay tuned.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) July 1, 2020
If the NFL executes its preseason plan, the new exhibition opener for both teams will be the Raiders-49ers clash at Levi’s Stadium on Aug. 21 in a renewal of a longstanding preseason meeting between the teams that was canceled over issues with fan violence. The series was rekindled with the Raiders now in Las Vegas and a 2018 regular-season meeting passing without incident.
The 49ers are currently set to play the Raiders on Aug. 21 and the host Chicago Bears on Aug. 29.
The Raiders are scheduled the 49ers and then play for the first time at Allegiant Stadium in an Aug. 27 exhibition against Arizona.
The NFL preseason schedule will be in some flux, per the Miami Herald, to give each team a home contest and one on the road. The 49ers and Raiders are currently scheduled to play at home and away, though several other teams have either all home games or all road fixtures left on the schedule. That will have to be remedied before the preseason slate is finalized.
It would make sense to leave the Raiders and 49ers alone, especially with the Raiders exhibition opener in Week 3, but those could be some flux. All of the teams with two games at home or on the road are in the Central or Eastern time zones, so it doesn't make much sense to involve a West Coast team in these changes.
All this ultimately remains in flux, until the union signs off on the switch.
[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]
Shortening the preseason has been discussed for some time, to remove a travel date from the exhibition slate. It will also give the Raiders, 49ers and other NFL teams an opportunity to ramp up toward a game more gradually, an important factor for teams after OTAs and minicamps were wiped out by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The NFL previously canceled the Hall of Fame Game, which typically opens the exhibition slate. Both the Raiders and 49ers are scheduled to start training camp on July 28.
Coaches are currently allowed to return to the office – the Raiders are working out of their new Henderson, Nev. facility – but players won’t return until camp starts.
There has been a general push to eliminate some preseason games permanently, possibly with the addition of a regular-season contest. That’s up in the air at this point, but it makes perfect sense in the short term to eliminate typically useless contests for roster locks.
Coaches will have to evaluate the back end of the roster in practice, with their highest snap counts typically in games now taken off the schedule.