The NFL and NFLPA have announced significant changes to the league’s offseason schedule in response to the travel and gathering restrictions put in place to fight the novel coronavirus-caused COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a memo to teams released by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith on Monday, NFL teams will postpone the beginning of organized team activities, restrict travel during free agency negotiations and close team facilities to players for two weeks.
“Based on the most recent guidance provided by leading health officials, and in consultation with the NFLPA and both our and the union’s medical advisors, we believe this is the appropriate way to protect the health of our players, staff and our communities,” Goodell wrote in the memo. “We will continue to make decisions based on the best advice from medical and public heath experts and will be prepared to make further modifications as needed.”
During the free agency period, which officially opens at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, teams will not be permitted to bring free agents to a club facility or other location in their city to meet and club personnel are also not permitted to travel, meaning that all negations must be done electronically.
Medical records from previous teams will be released to prospective new destinations and players will have the ability to have a physical for their new team performed by a doctor in their home city, eliminating the necessity for travel.
OTAs were expected to start on April 6 for teams with new head coaches and April 20 for all other teams, including the Steelers. Instead, they will be pushed back indefinitely and in face, all team facilities will be closed to players, except those undergoing injury rehab, for at least two weeks.
NFL Announces Coaches can Return to Team Facilities
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that coaching staffs may return to team facilities Friday, June 5 in a memo issued to teams Thursday morning.
Here is the crux of the memo that just went out to teams from the NFL regarding coaches being back in the building safely. Still no players, but a reason for optimism. pic.twitter.com/A8LyqqHJK3— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 4, 2020
Staying consistent with their message throughout the reopening process, coaches may return only if clubs have “received necessary permission from state and local governments.”
Clubs were informed last week that coaches will count towards the maximum number of employees permitted in facilities, but the total number allowed will increase from 75 to 100 tomorrow as well.
While Goodell has not yet announced when all players will be cleared to return, he did add that the league is still working “with clubs medical staffs to implement a program of COVID-19 testing” prior to players coming back.
Injured and rehabbing players were some of the first who received the green light to return to team facilities, and have been back for a few weeks now.
Club facilities were initially closed by the league back on March 25 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While coaches are likely eager to return to their team facilities, they should make themselves comfortable for the long haul.
Goodell’s memo comes a day after multiple reports that the league informed franchises they must conduct training camp from their practice facilities this August.
This would mean the Steelers will be prepping for the season on the South Side, instead of making a 55th-consecutive trip to St. Vincent College in Latrobe.
Roger Goodell Continues NFL Reopening; Expects Coaches in Facilities Next Week
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced the next phase of league reopenings in a memo to teams Thursday.
Starting Monday, June 1, clubs will be permitted to reopen box offices, retail shops and other “customer-facing” locations “as long as the operation of such facilities fully complies with state and local regulation.”
Employees working in these newly opened location will count towards the limit per team set by the league. Clubs are permitted 50 percent of their normal staff, and cannot exceed 75 employees in facilities.
Rehabbing players will continue to be allowed access to team facilities, but healthy players and coaches are still not in the clear to return. Goodell added that the expectation is that coaching staffs can come back to facilities next week.
“We are actively working with Governors and other state and local authorities in those states that have not yet definitive plans and will confirm the precise date on which coaches can return to the facility as soon as possible,” Goodell said.
Coaches have been barred from team facilities in an attempt to ensure competitive equity around the league, considering different states are at different stages in their respective reopening processes.
Goodell added that the league is working alongside the NFLPA to develop protocols that would allow players to return to club facilities in a limited fashion.
The first phase of reopening began on May 19, and it appears to have been successful thus far.
“Clubs that have reopened their facilities have done so in a safe and effective way,” Goodell said.
The league is utilizing three different criteria as it continues with its reopening plan: state and local regulations must be followed, reopening must be consistent with protocols created by NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills and competitive fairness must be a priority throughout the process.
The NFL has not yet made announcements regarding training camps, or if games will be played without fans during the 2020 season.
NFL Adds to League Officiating Department; Alberto Riveron Remains Top Replay Official
The NFL has drastically altered the structure of its officiating office, but Alberto Riveron will remain the man in charge of league replay reviews.
The league announced on Thursday that longtime referee Walt Anderson and former NFL coach Perry Fewell have joined the NFL officiating department.
Fewell, 57, will oversee the officiating department, including communications with head coaches and general mangers, and be the league’s liaison to the NFL Referee Association and the NCAA.
He joins the league office after last serving as the Carolina Panthers’ interim head coach in 2019. He was also interim head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2009. Fewell was the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills from 2006-09 and New York Giants from 2010-14 and was a defensive backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars (1998-02 and 2017-18), the St. Louis Rams (20030-04), Chicago Bears (2005), Washington Redskins (2015-16) and Carolina Panthers (2019). Fewell also worked as a collegiate assistant at North Carolina, Army, Kent State and Vanderbilt.
Anderson, 67, spent 24 years as an NFL official and the last 17 seasons as a referee before moving into the league office as senior vice president of officiating training and development, where one will oversee game officials, their development, training, education, recruitment and more.
That will leave less on the able other than his role as the league’s lead replay official, a role he will return to for his eighth season.
Each of Anderson, Fewell and Riveron will report directly to NFL executive vice president of of football operations Troy Vincent.
“Our intentions are to implement meaningful improvements to the game and officiating,” Vincent said in a press release. “We will continue to make every effort to improve officiating and pursue officiating excellence.”