By now, or at least around this time, all NFL teams should be preparing to enter Phase One of the offseason program, which truth be told basically just consists of players using the weight room at their team facilities. There is no on-field work and no football-related contact with coaches are allowed. Only strength and medical coaches can interact with players.
Given that all facilities are closed down amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it goes without saying that not even this aspect of the offseason program is possible. Over the past few weeks, the NFL and NLFPA has been working on creating a new ‘offseason program’ for the circumstances, which has genuine implications for all players who have workout bonuses.
The details of that plan were revealed on April 13. Set to begin April 20, you can read the details in full here. During this time, the offseason program will consist of things such as classroom instruction, workouts, nonfootball educational programs, and things of that sort—all held virtually, of course. And all of it is voluntary, as always.
For some reason, the ‘virtual’ portion of the offseason is left voluntary for teams, but if they don’t participate, they will not be allowed to conduct offseason activities after that, either, which does not appear to make an awful lot of sense. Not that there will be any on-field activities by the time OTAs would be happening.
One important note that the release points out is that before any teams can reopen facilities, it must be equally applicable to all 32 teams. Either everybody is able to participate in on-field work, or no teams will be permitted to do so. That is a key point with regards to competitive balance.
Basically, between now and the middle of May, players will be taking lessons at home and going through workout programs that were designed by their strength and conditioning staff. Teams are permitted to furnish up to $1500 in equipment to each player for at-home use to carry out their designed workouts.
It’s not likely, at this rate, that OTAs will happen this year, so the ‘virtual’ part of the offseason will probably be here for a while. What isn’t virtual is the checks players would be getting for their workout bonuses.
And the workout bonuses will function as they have in any other context, triggered by completing an agreed upon percentage of the offseason workouts. As long as players with workout bonuses fulfill those obligations, even in this virtual offseason, they will still get their signing bonuses as stipulated in the contracts that they signed.