While the NFL will move forward as planned with the scheduling of both the 2020 league year and free agency as well as the draft in late April, the league and its players association announced some sweeping changes to the offseason procedures as a whole in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Offseason programs, free agency travel and medical examinations, and facility access will all look differently until further notice, while the draft will have a new format as well.
Let’s take a closer look at the measures announced by the league on Monday.
Offseason programs: The New England Patriots would have started their offseason workout program on April 20, but the kickoff will be delayed indefinitely. According to the NFL’s statement, 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.” For now, however, teams will have to wait to start their preparations for the 2020 season.
Free agency travel and medical examination: The league barred its franchises from bringing any free agent players to a club facility or any other location to meet with team personnel. Furthermore, members of an organization — including the medical staff — are no longer permitted from traveling in order to conduct medical examinations of potential free agency acquisitions. This will create an interesting dynamic, especially when it comes to trades: they cannot officially be processed until a player passes a physical with his new team.
Facility access: The Patriots and the rest of the NFL will “close their facilities to players, other than those undergoing medically-supervised rehabilitation and treatment, for the next two weeks.” This is essentially a league-wide continuation of what other teams — including New England — have already implemented, in that non essential personnel will not be allowed to enter the premises for the time being. Now we know that players are also llocked out from the facilities for at least two weeks.
Draft: While this year’s draft itself will take place as scheduled — April 23-25 — the NFL has cancelled all public events in Las Vegas and will hold the college player selection meeting without an audience. According to a statement, the league “is exploring innovative options for how the process will be conducted and will provide that information as it becomes available.” While the whole procedure will look differently, the draft still will be televised.
“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,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “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.”
“It is our responsibility to work together and protect the health, safety and well being of everyone in our business,” added the NFLPA’s executive director, DeMaurice Smith. “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.”