The NFL is delaying the start of its offseason workout program while formulating a plan with the NFL Players Association on how to proceed during the coronavirus pandemic.
At least for the time being, NFL coaches won’t be allowed to communicate with players via videoconferencing.
Normally, Monday would have signaled the start of the nine-week offseason workout program for the five NFL teams with new head coaches — Carolina, Dallas, Washington, Cleveland and the New York Giants — to begin participating in conditioning drills and light workouts. However, due to COVID-19, players are not allowed to be at team facilities while social distancing standards remain in place throughout the country.
It was expected that those teams would begin meeting Monday via videoconferencing. But the NFL informed teams on Friday they will be notified once the league and NFLPA determine the scope and earliest possible date when they may begin their offseason workout programs.
Specifically, the league is discussing possible revisions to the offseason workout program that would permit teams to conduct classroom instruction, workouts, and non-football educational programs on a virtual basis while team facilities remain closed.
“We are still waiting for the league to tell us when that starts,” Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said via conference call on Monday. “We don’t have a date yet.”
In the meantime, teams may provide players with playbooks and video on iPads, Microsoft Surface tablets or other similar units for voluntary use by the player away from the team facility. The video may include coaching or instructional voice-overs or audio content; superimposed diagrams; schematics; or written commentary.
That will give players at least some head start preparing for the season ahead.
For teams like Carolina, there is a lot of work to do with a new coaching staff, a new quarterback and a new playbook.
Hurney said Carolina’s staff is working tirelessly preparing for the coming weeks and months while doing everything possible to establish effective lines of communication between players and coaches once given the OK.
“We have worked hard to get ready for whenever we get the green light and have video conferencing with our players,” Hurney said. “But right now it’s a lot like going into the draft — we are getting prepared for all of the scenarios and waiting to see when we can move forward.”
In Cleveland, new coach Kevin Stefanski is ready to start a new era.
The Browns have not made the playoffs since 2002, and Stefanski is eager to change that. But like others around the league he will have to wait, preparing for different scenarios for his team for the season.
“We are trying to think about this thing and hit it from every angle, pending the rules and structure that the NFL and NFLPA agree upon,” Stefanski said. “… Is it virtual classrooms? We are ready for that, but we just do not know exactly how it is going to go down.”