It wasn’t so long ago that people were saying that, surely, it was too early for the NFL to do anything about the NFL Draft. It’s so far away, right? And the offseason program? Forget about it. That’s two months away. Even though we’re still in the process of understanding what we’re dealing with, it would be reactionary to consider changes so far out.
The NFL and NFLPA have decided to take a different approach. Both parties just issued a joint statement announcing that offseason programs will now be “delayed indefinitely” in response to the ongoing outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus that is still expanding in and around the United States.
Joint statement from the NFL and NFLPA pic.twitter.com/JjzNqGQi9M
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) March 17, 2020
Earlier today, government officials recommended that citizens refrain from gatherings of individuals of 10 or more, a dramatic decrease from the 50 that had previously been talked about. Before long, very nearly everything short of places to buy food and medicine will be shuttered until further notice until the viral outbreak is under control.
While the NFL free agency period has kicked off with a ‘business as usual’ familiarity, seeing huge-money contracts being agreed to throughout this afternoon and evening days before those contracts can actually become official, we all know that we are operating under conditions far from the usual.
“Offseason Team Activities will not commence on April 6 for teams with new head coaches and April 20 for other clubs”, the joint statement reads. “The parties will periodically meet and reassess the public health situation to determine an appropriate start date for any offseason team activities and other related considerations as the situation develops”.
It has already been announced that, as of now, the 2020 NFL Draft will still be held, but without an audience and a minimal broadcast crew, with all other side events cancelled, as they look for innovative ways to hold this event, a pivotal tentpole of the NFL offseason. Even this could change as we get closer to the date.
OTAs begin weeks later, and as of right now, we should not be anticipating that they will be taking place as scheduled, if at all. Teams are also not allowed to bring in free agents for visits. Physicals can be arranged with neutral physicians local to the players, if both parties are agreeable to the arrangement.
The league has now formally announced that club facilities will be closed to players, except for medical treatment, for at least the next two weeks. Most teams had already closed their doors, but this now mandates that it applies to all teams.
After the initial free agency rush, there is going to be a lull between then and the draft deeper than we have seen in many years. The last time the offseason was adjusted was during the lockout of 2011, during which, outside of the draft, it did not take place until the end of July.