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NFL announces offseason program delays, free agency visitation restrictions

At the recommendation of medical and public health experts, the NFL is suspending offseason programs due to COVID-19.

NFL: JAN 19 AFC Championship - Titans at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the latest domino to fall due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL has announced, in a memo sent to teams, that all offseason programs will be delayed indefinitely. The league has also instituted restrictions on travel as it pertains to NFL Free Agency.

Earlier today, the NFL issued a statement regarding the 2020 NFL Draft which will now exclude any fan events, however the draft, in some capacity, will still take place beginning on April 23rd.

Starting today, the NFL clubs were allowed to offer unrestricted free agents contract offers as part of the league’s two-day “negotiation window”. Teams are permitted to speak with players’ representatives, however coaches are not permitted to have any contact. Players have already begun to agree to terms with teams without meeting with clubs at their facility.

“Off-Season Team Activities will be delayed indefinitely,” the NFL stated in a memo sent to clubs today. “The league and the NFLPA will continue to monitor the developing situation and follow the guidance of medical and public health professionals, including their respective medical advisors to determine an appropriate start date for such activities and other related considerations.”

The Jaguars were set to begin their offseason program on April 20th, the day in which all clubs with returning head coaches are set to begin offseason training. Now, at least that much will be delayed, and there has been no indication upon when the NFL will allow teams to meet.

As far as free agency is concerned, the league is restricting team’s ability to host or travel for free agency visitations. The restrictions will remain in place until further notice.

This will impact team’s abilities to give a player a physical examination which typically is performed by the club’s doctors. Instead, the NFL is permitting players to “undergo a medical exam in the player’s home city or other nearby location (a ‘neutral physician exam’) as a condition of entering such contract.”

It will be up to the player and the club to agree upon such condition. The NFL is currently seeking “neutral” physicians that will allow examinations to be conducted.

The NFL and NFL Players Association also agreed to prohibit any NFL player, except for players receiving medical treatment, from entering the team’s facility starting tomorrow, March 17th through March 31st.

The delays will impact not only official signings, but also any press conferences, or meetings involving coaches along with players. Players and coaches are still, of course, permitted to speak via teleconference or phone at anytime for players assigned to their clubs, and after free agency officially opens on March 18th to any current NFL free agent.

While “big-name” free agents are typically signed or come to an agreement without visitation, this will absolutely impact players in the tiers below, which typically visit teams to get a feel on fits, along with any medical situation. Regardless, it doesn’t appear this restriction will be lifted anytime soon.