Earlier today, I wrote about the fact that today is a key day on the NFL calendar, in that beginning at 4PM, the window for free agents counting toward the compensatory pick formula when signed closes. That means that all players who remain unsigned can be in by teams with no compensatory penalty, so it wouldn’t at all be surprising if we start seeing a number of signings over the next couple of days around the league. Big names like Jameis Winston and Jadeveon Clowney are floating out there.
It’s also a key day for most of the league because today starts their virtual offseason program. 20 NFL teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, are eligible to begin doing so as of today, and based on Mike Tomlin’s post-draft press conference, they intend to do so (there are other teams who have opted not to do anything).
“We’re excited about the young men that we were able to acquire, and now it’s our job as a coaching staff to get these guys assimilated into the program, and not only them but all of our guys as we get into
the virtual off-season starting on Monday, and we’re excited about that”, he told reporters on Saturday.
According to Pro Football Talk, however, it sounds as though very few teams this year intend to perform virtual workout sessions with their players. Only the Baltimore Ravens, the Miami Dolphins, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are said to be including workouts among the 20 teams eligible to begin their offseason program today, with Mike Florio writing that the others “will not” have virtual workouts.
It’s not entirely surprising to me that most teams would choose to forego this. Teams are still able to consult with players about constructing a workout regimen that they can do on their own, and frankly, social media is full of evidence of players training on their own as it is, including a number of Steelers players, whether it’s Mason Rudolph throwing footballs or new guard Kevin Dotson pulling trucks.
To state the obvious, until we learn otherwise, this offseason is going to be exclusively of a classroom and conditioning nature fore players, because they are unable to gather for the time being due to the Covid-19 pandemic that forced the 2020 NFL Draft to be conducted with everybody in isolation.
As is always the case, the offseason program, whether virtual or otherwise, is entirely optional, so players can be feel free to participate or not. The only obligation is for players who have workout bonuses tied to participation, if they want to collect those bonuses.
It’s hard to imagine any rookies skipping it, though, considering how far they’re already expected to be behind since they can’t get on the field. This will be their first introduction to the playbook and everything else involved with being a member of their new teams.