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NFL indefinitely delays start of offseason program due to coronavirus

It’s happening

NFL: Washington Redskins-Training Camp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL surprised some people (and owners apparently) when they decided to continue with free agency as planned. The legal tampering period started yesterday at noon, and fans have been getting a steady flow of much welcome sports news from the king of American sports. The league also announced that the draft would not be postponed, but all fan events would be cancelled, and it would look a lot different than we are used to.

These are the easy things, now comes the actual business of training and practicing with 90-man rosters, coaches, and support staff. The NFL announced yesterday that the start of its offseason program will be delayed indefinitely as the world shuts down to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Teams have already limited travel for scouts and coaches; pro days for college prospects have been cancelled, and team facilities have been shut down.

The Redskins would have had the opportunity to begin offseason activities two weeks early (April 6th) due to hiring a new head coach. Now they will wait to see when things return to normal, which some people feel might not be until training camp or later.

NFL AND NFL PLAYERS ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCE OFF-SEASON CHANGES​ - NFL and NFLPA Delay Off-Season Programs Indefinitely; Issue Additional Procedures for Free Agent Travel and Medical Examinations; Restrict Access to Club Facilities

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today announced that, following discussions with NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and consultations between the medical teams for the NFL and NFLPA, and based on coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance from public health officials, NFL clubs will delay indefinitely the start of their off-season programs. In addition, special procedures will be in place for the start of the new League Year until further notice.

Off-Season Programs

The parties will continue to follow the guidance of medical and public health professionals, including their respective medical advisors. As a result, Off-Season Team Activities will not commence on April 6 for teams with new head coaches and April 20 for all other clubs. 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 this situation develops.

Over the course of the next several weeks, NFLPA Medical Director Dr. Thom Mayer and NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills—in consultation with the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network (DICON), and other league and NFLPA advisors on infectious disease control—will develop a standard set of protocols for clubs to implement regarding facility cleaning and maintenance, equipment preparation, steps to identify player and staff who may be at elevated risk, and other preventive measures.

Free Agent Travel and Medical Procedures

During the upcoming free agency period, which begins on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 18, NFL clubs may not bring any free agent player to a club facility or other location to meet with club personnel. Further, club personnel, including members of the club medical staff, may not travel to any location to meet with or conduct a medical examination of a free agent player.​

The NFL and NFLPA are developing protocols that will provide clubs with opportunities to review a free agent player’s medical records from his prior club(s) and to arrange for a free agent player to have a medical exam in the player’s home city or at another nearby location. These steps are consistent with those announced last Friday for club contact with draft-eligible college players.

Access to Club Facilities

As a further step to address issues relating to coronavirus (COVID-19), NFL clubs will close their facilities to players, other than those undergoing medically-supervised rehabilitation and treatment, for the next two weeks.

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said: “It is our responsibility to work together and protect the health, safety and well being of everyone in our business. Nonetheless, public safety is paramount during this national emergency and we will continue to work with the NFL, medical experts and seek guidance from federal agencies to adjust our business practices accordingly.”

Commissioner Goodell said: “Based on the most recent guidance provided by leading health officials, and in consultation with the NFLPA and both our and the union’s medical advisors, we believe this is the appropriate way to protect the health of our players, staff, and our communities. We will continue to make decisions based on the best advice from medical and public health experts and will be prepared to make further modifications as needed.”