The ongoing Coronavirus crisis has forced another change to the NFL’s offseason schedule — albeit one that only seems like a formality at this point in time: the league has officially opted to cancel mandatory minicamps and in turn gave teams an opportunity to extend their virtual offseason programs for two more weeks through June 26.
Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the change in a memo to the NFL’s 32 organizations (via Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer):
To date, we have finalized protocols governing the operation of facilities and establishing mandatory educational programs for players and essential football personnel. Protocols addressing testing, treatment, training camp, travel and games will be finalized and distributed in the near term. Although under a traditional schedule, mandatory minicamps are scheduled to open next week, after discussion with the CEC, we have concluded that it would be prudent not to hold in-person minicamps under the current circumstances and have instead determined to extend the Virtual Period through and including June 26.
The NFL’s decision to nix minicamps does not come as a surprise considering that numerous teams have already wrapped up their offseason programs — among them the New England Patriots. While offseason acquisitions have continued to attend virtual sessions and now have the opportunity to do so through the month of June, the team’s veterans have already wrapped up offseason work last weekend and will not re-join their teammates until the beginning of training camp.
According to the new NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement, the Patriots will be among the teams who are scheduled to open their camp this year on July 28. Of course, the Coronavirus pandemic could still alter plans. For the time being, the league and the players association are continuing to work on safely returning players to team facilities:
We will continue working with the NFLPA to conclude the remaining protocols and finalize arrangements for the safe opening of training camps next month.
At the moment — and likely until training camp — players are still not allowed to enter team facilities. The only exception is those currently rehabilitating from an injury, even though doing so is voluntary. New England has numerous players falling under this category, including veteran cornerback Jason McCourty.