The NFL announced yesterday that, for the foreseeable future, there will be no physicals of any kind conducted. This includes all current free agents, all Combine medical rechecks, and all medical exams for prospects declaring for the draft who were not invited to and examined at the Combine, which was held last month.
The news comes amid, and because of, the ongoing international crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is affecting the United States as significantly as it has affected almost every other country on the planet.
As of this writing, the United States has 46,168 documented cases, third-most in the world, following an uptick of nearly 2500, the sharpest increase of the day for any nation. This is largely attributable to the rollout of testing being conducted around the country, of course.
“The Board of Directors of the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) have met by phone and communicated with members of Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) that the NFLPS has agreed to discontinue Combine rechecks, free agent physicals and physicals for non-Combine players until the health crisis has passed,” Dr. Anthony Casolaro wrote in a statement sent to both the league and the players union. “We believe It is not in the interest of the players nor team medical staff to continue to perform these physicals”.
The NFL had already barred all travel among players, and up to this point teams were forced to either rely upon the exit meeting physicals that were done for free agents at the end of last season, or tried to coordinate visits with a third-party physician local to the player. The latter is no longer an option.
“At a time of the most serious pandemic in our lifetime, we believe medical resources should focus on those who are ill or in need of care”, Casolaro said. “We look forward to examining players when it is appropriate to do so”.
While it would only affect a small handful of the population, this is the conscientious course of action to take. We are beginning to enter a critical moment in the pandemic. Over the course of the next month, we will be facing a tipping point that will determine just how severe this will be.
Already, estimates have hospital resources being overwhelmed within the next seven to 10 days as new cases are reported daily by the thousands. Only a few hundred recovery cases within the US have as of yet been reported, compared to thousands in nations with similar total counts.
Only Italy, with a bit over 50,000, has more currently active patients diagnosed with the coronavirus, and the number could balloon well into the hundreds of thousands before things actually calm down and we can even begin to talk about approaching a point of normalcy.
Edit: NFL public relations chief Brian McCarthy has clarified that “NFL-related” physicals refers specifically to physical conducted by the NFL Physicians Society, and that clubs may still “arrange for a free agent or traded player to have medical exams conducted in the player’s home city or at another nearby location by a third-party doctor”. So, really, not much has actually changed…
More on last night’s memo from the NFL Physicians Society (https://t.co/apGEesdcHf): @NFLprguy sent this statement below. Worth noting: The neutral doctors are primarily orthopedic physicians who don’t have offices in hospitals which are affected by COVID-19 matters. pic.twitter.com/WaLMPNoC8U
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 24, 2020