NFL players will not be returning to practice facilities for the near future, but a voluntary offseason virtual workout program is coming next week. The NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to terms for a voluntary program starting Monday, April 20th, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
The program will open with a virtual period in which each team gets three straight weeks of virtual work that can include things like classroom instruction, workouts, and non-football educational programs using Skype. There will also be an extra voluntary veteran minicamp for new head coaches.
The voluntary phase 1 portion must conclude for teams by May 15th. Then, phase 2 can begin on May 18th. If club facilities do not reopen during the offseason workout program, clubs may conduct a mandatory veteran minicamp on a virtual basis, with limits of two hours of classroom time and two hours of workout time. If needed, teams will be allowed to send players workout equipment and monitoring devices (Pelissero mentions kettlebells, resistance bands, and Apple watches as examples) so long as the cost for any individual player doesn’t exceed $1,500.
Previously, new head coaches got a two week head start on the offseason program, and then the programs would go through three phases including OTAs and capped by a June mandatory minicamp. For this new program, once the voluntary virtual period ends, it remains to be seen what will come next. The agreement states that club facilities will only re-open “in accordance with NFL protocols and federal, state and local rules and regulations.” Also, if one or more club facilities are required to remain closed, all club facilities must remain closed during that period.
This suggests that we might not see NFL teams practicing in person until June at the earliest. A majority of states have some kind of shelter-in-place order in effect due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and their effective end date ranges from early May to June depending on the state. Those orders will dictate when football can return to more traditional practice.