Update 3/24/2020: NFL Physicians Society informs league that player physicals will be discontinued amid Coronavirus concerns
According to a report by the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson, NFL teams are still allowed to “arrange for a free agent or traded player to undergo a physical conducted by a third-party doctor in the player’s home city or nearby.” Procedures should therefore not be impacted too much by the NFLPS’s decision to discontinue physical evaluation in light of the Coronavirus.
Original story 3/24/2020: NFL Physicians Society informs league that player physicals will be discontinued amid Coronavirus concerns
The NFL and its 32 franchises continue to adapt to the growing concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic. After travel and in-facility work have already been significantly restricted, and the offseason schedule adapted accordingly, the league now has taken another step to prevent the virus from spreading: the NFL Physicians Society informed the NFL and NFL Players Association that player physicals will temporarily be discontinued.
Dr. Anthony Casolaro, co-head physician of the Washington Redskins and President of the NFLPS explained the decision in a letter sent to the league’s and player association’s decision-makers (via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport):
The Board of Directors of the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) have met by phone and communicated with members of Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) that the NFNLPS has agreed to discontinue Combine rechecks, free agent physicals and physicals for non-Combine players until the health crisis has passed. We believe it is not in the interest of the players nor team medical staff to continue to perform these physicals.
At a time of the most serious pandemic in our lifetime, we believe medical resources should focus on those who are ill or in need of care.
We look forward to examining players when it is appropriate to do so.
Discontinuing player physicals for the time being is obviously a good decision considering that Covid-19 has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, as well as a national health emergency by the United States government. Using resources to combat it therefore has to have priority over testing players for pro football purposes. That being said, this is a big deal for the NFL and its clubs during free agency and the pre-draft process.
After all, no signings or trades can become official without a physical in place. As a result, a noticeable number of teams and players will remain in limbo — possibly months depending on how the Coronavirus situation will continue — with one integral part of player movement between teams now missing. The same, of course, has to be said about the pre-draft process and prospects likely not being checked or re-checked before the draft in late April.
From the New England Patriots’ perspective, this means that two of their most recent free agency additions — quarterback Brian Hoyer and linebacker Brandon Copeland — could remain without an officially signed agreement for quite some time. That said, the league’s announcements that offseason workouts have been pushed back indefinitely means that clubs will have more wiggle room to bring players on board.