NFL coaches might return to their team facilities as soon as next week, according to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Players might soon follow.
Goodell told reporters in a conference call following an afternoon video conference with owners that coaches could soon return to their offices as teams gradually reopen during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Goodell later added in a memo that players might eventually return before the end of the offseason program, which concludes no later than June 26.
The commissioner said virtual training sessions would continue at least the next two weeks, so players wouldn’t return before then.
“We expect that next week clubs will be permitted to include members of their coaching staffs among the employees permitted to resume work in the club facility,” Goodell wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Newsday. “We are also continuing to work with the NFL [Players Association] on developing protocols that will allow at least some players to return to your facilities on a limited basis prior to the conclusion of the off-season program.”
Goodell also said that teams may “reopen ticket offices, retail shops and other customer-facing facilities” beginning on Monday, “as long as the operation of such facilities fully complies with state and local regulations.”
“As a league and in partnership with the NFLPA, we will continue to prepare and adjust as necessary,” Goodell told reporters. “We’re very proud we have demonstrated we can operate in new and innovative ways, so we are prepared for the 2020 season.”
Among other things, Goodell went ahead with the start of the league year, which included the free agency signing period, and the three-day draft was held as scheduled in late April. The league has conducted its offseason programs with players and coaches in a virtual format.
NFL owners adopted some minor rules changes Thursday, expanding defenseless player protections to punt and kickoff returners and experimenting with an enhanced communications system between a booth replay official and the referee during the preseason.
The league also made permanent the replay review of extra point attempts and scoring plays and turnovers that are overturned because of penalties. And it is also now illegal for a team to run time off the clock on a dead-ball foul on offense.
The league tabled two other motions. The first was the potential adoption of a “sky judge,” which would have created an officiating position in the booth that would have been allowed to call penalties if they were missed by on-field officials. The owners also put off a vote on allowing teams the option of running a 4th-and-15 play instead of an onside kick.
“There were plenty of questions [on the 4th-and-15 play] and we answered as many as we could,” competition committee chairman Rich McKay said. “There’s still in those people’s mind, ‘Let’s not make this too easy.’ Is that too much of an increased advantage to the team that just scored? We’ll look at it.”