The NFL will shut down all 32 team practice facilities on Monday and Tuesday in response to the rising levels of COVID-19 positives around the league and fear that the Thanksgiving holiday could introduce a wave of additional cases into the league.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the changes in a memo to teams on Friday. Most teams do not practice on Monday or Tuesday, with the facility only open for meetings, treatments, physical training and weight training.
The closure will not impact teams that will still be preparing for their Week 12 games: the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks, who play on Monday night, and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, who are scheduled to play on Tuesday night. The Ravens have already made the decision to close their facility through Monday thanks to their ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
The NFLPA is also instructing members that had guests over for the holiday to get a point-of-care test before they return to the team’s facility.
Browns’ Kevin Stefanski Named PFWA Coach of the Year
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has been named 2020 NFL Coach of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America, the organization announced Thursday.
Stefanski led the Browns to an 11-5 record and their first playoff win since 1994 in his first season as a head coach. He is just the second Browns head coach to win the award in franchise history, joining Marty Schottenheimer in 1986.
A loaded Browns offensive reached its full potential under the play calling and tutelage of Stefanski, finishing as the league’s third-best rushing team and committing the fourth-fewest turnovers.
Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield also took a leap forward in 2020 under Stefanski, passing for 26 touchdowns and a career-low eight interceptions. Mayfield’s 95.9 passer rating was also the best of his young career.
The Buffalo Bills also earned a pair of honors for their outstanding 2020 performance. General manager Brandon Beane was named PFWA NFL Executive of the Year, while offensive coordinator was awarded Assistant Coach of the Year.
The Bills owned the NFL’s second-ranked offense, as quarterback Josh Allen became a bonafide MVP candidate under Daboll. Allen completed a career-high 69.2% of his passes, while also tossing 37 touchdowns, seven more than through his first two seasons combined.
Beane was the mastermind behind Buffalo’s addition of wide receiver Stefon Diggs form the Minnesota Vikings, who proved one of the most successful trade acquisitions in recent memory. Diggs was named a First-Team All-Pro after leading the league with 127 receptions and 1,535 yards. He also caught eight touchdowns.
Report: NFL Execs Believe Deshaun Watson Will Fetch Three First-Round Draft Picks
NFL executives believe that if traded, Houston Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson could fetch three first-round draft picks, according to a report by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.
The Steelers have been mentioned as a possible destination for the unhappy Houston star, though one seen as a significant long shot. The most recent odds from SportsBetting.com gives the Steelers 30/1 odds at landing Watson, if he’s traded.
Watson has a no-trade clause and could dictate where the Texans are able to trade him. He grew unhappy with the organization over the process used to hire new general manager Nick Caserio from the New England Patriots.
Watson was the league’s most prolific passer in 2020, throwing for 4,823 yards for an 8.9 yards per attempt average, both of which led the league. He also threw 33 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 112.4.
The Steelers have traded a first-round draft pick just once since 1968, when they traded their 2020 first-rounder to Miami for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The Steelers have traded multiple first-round picks just once in their history, when they exchanged their top selections in 1958 and 1959 and linebacker Marv Matuszak with San Francisco for quarterback Earl Morrall and guard Mike Sandusky. The Steelers traded Morrall just over a year later to Detroit for Bobby Layne.
NFL Planning for Another Offseason Impacted by COVID-19
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.