The NFL and the NFLPA on Monday finalized plans for modified offseason workout rules to govern a 2020 offseason in which the coronavirus pandemic is preventing teams from gathering at team facilities.
According to a league memo obtained by ESPN, under the plan all offseason work aside from mandatory June minicamp is voluntary for players, as it is in a normal year. The memo also states that no team is required to hold an offseason program in any league year according to the collective bargaining agreement, but that if teams decide to hold offseason workout programs this year, "classroom instruction and on-field activities that customarily take place at the Club facility ... are being supplanted by on-line classroom instruction and virtual workouts for an indeterminate period."
The rules for "virtual" offseason programs state that no NFL team is required to participate in the "Virtual Period," which is defined as running from April 20 to May 15, and that a team may conduct classroom work online even if it doesn't assign its players specific workouts. If a team decides to hold an offseason program, its players would receive their customary per diem payments just as if they were there in person ($235 minimum per day) and would be entitled to receive any offseason workout bonuses specified in their contracts, provided they fulfill the participation requirements their contracts specify.
If a team declines to participate in the April 20-May 15 "Virtual Period," then it will not be permitted to conduct an offseason workout program after that period ends -- whether virtual or on-field. Following May 15, every team will have six weeks' worth of offseason program time available to it, whether it used its three weeks from April 20 to May 15 or not.
The memo leaves open the possibility that COVID-19 restrictions could be eased or lifted after May 15, but allows for the possibility that offseason programs would have to be conducted virtually after that date as well. It specifies that no team's offseason program can run past June 26 and, perhaps most importantly, that if any team's facility remains closed because of COVID-19, then all 32 team facilities must remain closed as well.
Troy Vincent, the NFL's executive vice president for football operations, said the league and union consulted with medical professionals and were determined to adhere to state regulations in establishing offseason work rules.
"The term that kept coming up was 'reasonable and responsible in the current climate,'" Vincent said on a conference call with reporters Monday night.
Teams conducting virtual workouts will be allowed to contact their players to determine whether they have the equipment they need and whether they'd be willing to wear monitoring devices to track their workouts to certify that they've completed them. Players who do not have the required equipment to complete the virtual offseason workouts assigned by their teams may be sent additional workout equipment at a maximum cost of $1,500 per player. That cost would be paid by the team.
If team facilities remain closed in June, teams will be allowed to conduct mandatory minicamps for veterans, "provided that (i) any online classroom instruction may not exceed two hours; (ii) any virtual workouts may not exceed two hours; and (iii) the Club may schedule the times for these activities as it chooses."
Under pre-existing rules, NFL teams that hired new head coaches this offseason would have been allowed to start their offseason programs April 6, while teams that didn't would have been allowed to start April 20. Teams with new head coaches were allowed to send playbooks to their players last week but have held off on establishing virtual offseason meetings or workouts until the league and union finalized the plan.
Under the newly established 2020 offseason rules, teams with new head coaches must wait until April 20 to begin their offseason programs, assuming they choose to do so at all, and teams with returning head coaches can begin April 27. Teams with new head coaches may conduct an additional voluntary veteran minicamp beginning May 11.