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Report: NFL expected to allow ‘some on-field work’ during the 2021 offseason

Related: Patriots reportedly allowed to start offseason workout program in mid-April

New England Patriots Practice Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

While seemingly the entire NFL is getting ready for the draft in three weeks, those players on a team’s roster are already preparing for the upcoming season as well. This process will become more formalized in two weeks, with the league allowing clubs to kick off their offseason workouts as early as April 19.

The voluntary Phase One workouts do not include any team work yet, however, but rather focus exclusively on strength and conditioning as well as rehabilitation. In a typical offseason, those sessions would be followed by voluntary and rookie minicamps as well as organized team activities and mandatory minicamp. The offseason program would conclude in June, with players then getting a month off before training camp.

How this year’s schedule will look like beyond this first phase remains to be seen, but there appears to be some optimism that it will include at least some on-field work as well.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the NFL and the NFL Players Association are current in negotiations about how the offseason will be conducted in light of the still-ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The expectation, however, is that “there will be some on-field work — passing camps and OTAs — this spring.”

“Health and safety protocols will be paramount, but the plan is for some in-person work,” Rapoport reported.

Last year, the NFL decided to move basically the entire offseason process to a virtual forum after the fast spread of Covid-19 forced facilities to be shut down. As a result, no football activities — including the progression of spring workouts mentioned above — were permitted until the beginning of training camps in late July.

With some encouraging developments taking place since January, however, the league and the players union appear to be well on the way to return to some level of normalcy again. Some protocols will obviously stay in place, but the mere fact that on-field and in-person work will be permitted is a positive one for teams trying to get ready for the 2021 season.

As for the New England Patriots, their players have been trying to get work done inside and outside their facility so far this offseason. Some rehabbing players visited Gillette Stadium regularly since season’s end, while others took to the practice fields to start working together — most prominently during the so-called “Pats West” sessions last month that were organized by third-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham.