FRISCO, Texas – "Welcome to the NFL, rookie," is taking on a whole new meaning in 2020.
If this was any other summer in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, a rookie center like Tyler Biadasz would be getting ready to knock heads with grizzled veterans and learn about life in the pros.
This particular summer, he's digesting the protocols that will (hopefully) allow him to even play football during an ongoing pandemic.
"It's been a concrete message that it's safety first," Biadasz said. "When you get off the field, put your mask back on and social distance. Even in our meetings, we're very particular about what distance we're at."
Biadasz spoke with reporters from the Cowboys' headquarters at The Star, as COVID-19 has forced the team to open training camp at their own facility for the first time history. Typically, training camp conjures up images of two-a-day practices, but in 2020 the focus is on following COVID-19 guidelines while trying to acclimate to an NFL regimen.
"You check in and get your device, and after you get your device you go through the COVID-19 testing that we do daily, and once we get that done we get ready for our lift," Biadasz said. "After that, it's really social distance throughout the day and attending our meetings and walkthroughs."
The device in question is the much-discussed Kinexon SafeZone tag, which NFL clubs are using to monitor distance within the facility and help with coronavirus contact tracing.
"It has a flashing red light if we're too close to one another, so we can monitor the space between each other," Biadasz said.
Within all those guidelines is the game plan to install the playbook and get conditioned for actual football practice. The Cowboys' veterans will begin arriving to camp this week, but even after the full team is together there will be a lengthy ramp-up period to get players acclimated. Biadasz said training at home in Wisconsin, without the framework of an offseason program, was a challenge.
"I did the best I could with the time I had. I definitely got to work out and everything, but training alone was a little bit different," he said. "It was my first offseason training alone, but I maximized my opportunities and got in the best shape I could be until we got here to Dallas."
At long last, Biadasz and his fellow newcomers have arrived at training camp. Whenever practices do begin, he says he's 100% recovered from his offseason shoulder surgery and ready to go.
In the meantime, there's that message of personal accountability and safety – and it's one he says he's taking seriously during the downtime he does have.
"I would say, for myself, once we get done with walkthroughs and we're done for the day, I'll stay here and get some recovery and get dinner. Then, I'll walk over to the hotel," he said. "I'm doing my part as best as possible, so I stay in my room – and that's about it. I try to do some stretching here and there in my room, or if I have a question I can call my coach or text him."
It's not an ideal welcome to professional football, but it's a necessary one if the NFL is going to play games in the fall. Even at this early stage of his career, Biadasz said that responsibility is not lost on him.
"We're trying to do our part for the social distancing, and we're not taking this lightly," he said. "We need to do this for our team and the whole league."