Despite being nearly a year into the pandemic, and by the time the summer rolls around, 18 months in, the NFLPA is anticipating having the same virtual offseason as they did in 2020. NFLPA union leader DeMaurice Smith said today he’s expecting the 2021 offseason to look very similar to 2020. Meaning, virtual workouts with rookie minicamps and OTAs cancelled.
From NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
The league has already begun making offseason adjustments. Yesterday, they officially announced there won’t be a centralized NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Instead, draft season will be spread out among Pro Days and regional combine workouts. Until now, the NFL Combine was the last event untouched by the pandemic, occurring weeks before the virus outbreak began in the United States.
At this point, it’s a safe bet there won’t be any in-person rookie minicamps or OTAs. For Pittsburgh, it’s also possible the Steelers again won’t hold training camp at St. Vincent College in 2021. In 2020, it was held at Heinz Field, without fans, though the beginning of practices were streamed daily. Until last year, Pittsburgh had held training camp at St. Vincent College for the past 54 seasons.
Despite the many challenges of the disrupted offseason, rookies around the league managed to thrive. Pittsburgh’s class is as good an example as any. Chase Claypool set team records while Alex Highsmith and Kevin Dotson stepped up when injuries struck. And despite the cancellation of the preseason, teams didn’t appear to experience a spike in soft-tissue injuries that were feared due to limited workouts. This has led for the union to call for a permanent change in offseason structure.
Combine aside, nothing has been made official yet. It’s certainly possible the COVID landscape improves as vaccination production and distribution increases throughout the new years. Still, many medical experts aren’t expecting any semblance of a “normal” life until the summer at the earliest.