Under normal circumstances, the NFL would have its eyes these days not just on the upcoming draft but also the offseason workout program: teams with new head coaches would originally have been permitted to start workouts back on April 6, with all others — including the New England Patriots — kicking off their own offseason programs on April 20. That schedule, of course, has been altered due to the current Coronavirus pandemic.
With all 32 team facilities having been shut down, the league had to alter its plans. Those changes were announced to the clubs last week after the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to hold a “virtual offseason period” this spring: the first phase opens today and will end no later than May 15, all while the reopening of facilities remains dependent on parameters set by government officials on both a federal and local level.
A total of 12 teams kicked off their virtual offseason today, with New England among them: the Patriots are joined by the Buffalo Bills, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Indianapolis Colts, the Los Angeles Chargers, the Cleveland Browns, the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers, the Chicago Bears, the Washington Redskins, the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. The league’s other 22 teams will begin preparations for the 2020 season next week.
While a dozen clubs started its virtual workouts today, not all of them are doing the same kind of work these days. In fact, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo, only three are actually holding virtual workouts akin to physical exercise: the Bills, the Colts — and the Patriots. The other 10 teams to open their virtual offseason today, meanwhile, are primarily focused on classroom and educational work.
“The answer for us is how to try to maximize the opportunity that we have,” said Patriots head coach during a media conference call last week when comparing the altered offseason period to the 2011 lockout. “I do think that from a teaching standpoint, we can get a lot of teaching done that we weren’t able to do nine, 10 years ago in a similar but different situation. I think with the teaching part that we’ll hopefully be okay.”
The Patriots, according to Garafolo, are requiring participation in the workouts in order for players to receive credit towards their contracts’ bonus money stipulations. Numerous members of the team, after all, have workout bonuses in their deals — ranging from wide receiver Julian Edelman’s $300,000 and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy’s $200,000 to as little as the $5,000 that are part of defensive edge Keionta Davis’ and cornerback Lenzy Pipkins’ deals.