The NFL is bracing for another disrupted offseason, as the prospects of having players and coaches vaccinated in time for a normal minicamp and OTA process seems bleak, NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith said on Tuesday.
The start of training camps could once again be impacted, as well.
Smith, in a conference call with NFL agents, said there is no “rosy outlook” on widespread vaccinations being available for players and team staff before August, as reported by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.
“We’re planning for an offseason that looks a lot like [the 2020] offseason,” Smith said.
The NFL has not updated its offseason calendar beyond the 2021 NFL Draft, which is scheduled to be held in Cleveland April 29-May 1.
After that, would normally come rookie camps, organized team activities and minicamps in short order, but like last season, it appears most of that will either not take place or take place virtually.
Through the 2020 season, 262 NFL Players and 460 team personnel tested positive for COVID-19, even with enhanced health and safety protocols that included holding many meetings virtually and closing the facilities on non-essential days.
The Pittsburgh Steelers moved their training camp to Heinz Field in 2020 due to health and safety rules that would have prevented fans from attending if held as typically at St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
Steelers president Art Rooney II has stated his desire to return to Latrobe for 2021. It’s not clear if the team would do that if they once again had to abide by pandemic-related health and safety protocols.