In addition to the approval of the expansion of the regular season earlier today, NFL owners came to some additional agreements, in conjunction with the NFLPA, regarding the structure and timing of the offseason program for the 2021 season.
While there is still much to be decided, including whether and what teams will be permitted to do in-person, there is an agreement in place stipulating that Phase 1 of the offseason program will begin on April 19. Players are already permitted to report to the facility to work out in small groups.
Tom Pelissero reports on Twitter that the NFL and NFLPA will continue to discuss the possibility of in-person OTAs soon after Phase 1 of the offseason program begins in April, which largely consists of players being permitted to report to the facilities for conditioning work, with only strength and conditioning coaches permitted to have contact with them.
The NFL held a virtual offseason program a year ago, a necessary innovation brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic that forced teams to shutter their facilities in the middle of March. Players were not permitted to show up for work until the start of training camp, holding all meetings over Zoom.
NFLPA president J.C. Tretter has argued that the events of last season and the quality of the on-field product demonstrated that in-person Spring workouts, consisting of 10 rounds of OTAs and mandatory minicamp, were an unnecessary burden on players, positing that there is no reason for players to report in May and June.
It is important to note that not all players agree with this, something that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Robert Spillane talked about yesterday. Kevin Dotson, a rookie a year ago, also recently discussed how he struggled without the in-person learning that comes during OTAs.
There are three Phases to the standard offseason program, with Phase One being limited to strength and conditioning work, as mentioned. Footballs are not even permitted to be used except for select instances, such as quarterbacks tossing balls to uncovered receivers, players using JUGGs machines, returners fielding kicks, and specialists kicking.
Phase Two is when on-field coaches are permitted to have direct interaction with the players, but consists only of shield and bag work, with no offense vs defense drills, with no live contact. Phase Three consists of OTAs and mandatory minicamp, though live contact is still not permitted.