The NFL and its players’ union have agreed to a framework for virtual offseason programs that will begin as early as Monday and allow coaches and players to interact with each other through videoconferencing tools.
The program will be in place through May 15, at which time the two sides will reassess the landscape as it pertains to policies aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19 and determine how the rest of the spring will unfold.
There is a possibility that after May 15, teams will be allowed to return to their facilities and hold on-field workouts for the remaining six weeks of the offseason program. However, the NFL said that in the spirit of balanced competition, if any of the 32 teams are under stay-at-home orders from their local government, none of the teams will be allowed to return.
“The caution of making sure that we adhere to state regulations and the medical community was first and foremost,” NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said on a conference call. “The term that came up [in discussions with the players] was being ‘reasonable and responsible’ in the current environment.”
The five teams with new head coaches, including the Giants, will be allowed to begin their four-week programs on April 20. The Giants have been planning to employ a virtual teaching system for several weeks and were ready to launch it on April 6, which was the original start date for their program, until the league put a hold on those plans several days beforehand to work out the new guidelines with the union. Teams with incumbent head coaches, including the Jets, can begin their three-week virtual program on April 27.
In a memo dispersed to teams and players and obtained by Newsday, the virtual offseason program includes other details such as stipends for participating players ($235 per day), mandatory credit toward offseason workout bonuses and an allowance of $1,500 per player for the purchase of equipment for use at home. Teams will be able to provide up to two hours of virtual classroom work within a four-hour window each day.
The virtual program will not be part of the traditional Phases I, II and III of offseason workouts that regulate on-field activities and interactions with coaches. “This is a different breed of cat,” NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash said.
The offseason programs — in whatever form they take — will end on June 26. With states such as Virginia (where the Redskins are based) under work-at-home directives through June 10, there is a strong possibility that the entire spring will be held virtually. That might mean that players and coaches will not have any in-person access to each other until training camps in late July.
Pash was asked if the NFL and its union are working on contingency plans in the event that health restrictions are still in place at that point, with the possibility of affecting the start of the regular season in early September. “Not yet,” he said. “We have not had those discussions.”
With Bob Glauber