2020 NFL offseason: League working to launch virtual offseason during coronavirus pandemic, per report

The collective world is on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, and that includes sports leagues around the world who have been forced to shut down until further notice. The NFL has mostly escaped that measure for now, considering the regular season for professional football doesn’t begin until September, but they’ve not been completely unscathed this spring. And with the offseason scheduled to begin for several teams on April 6, the second major impact to the league is about to be felt. 

The first came when the NFL banned all free agency and draft prospect visits to team facilities, massively altering how contract signings and draft prep were to take place in 2020, as players around the league finalize contracts that are pending approved non-team physicals. 

For those already under contract, the April 6 start to the offseason allowed teams who are taking on a new head coach — namely the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns — a two-week head start on the rest of the league. Instead, with facilities currently closed and still unable to permit an entirety of player and personnel re-entry once they’re permitted to reopen, the NFL is reportedly working with the NFLPA to launch what’s being described as a virtual offseason, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. 

The process has been delayed at least a week, and will eventually feature teams sending players tools like iPads/tablets for them to use voluntarily at home.

A virtual offseason is the league’s attempt to keep players engaged during a time when all traditional offseason programs have been suspended indefinitely. It remains unknown if mini-camp or training camp will begin on time, and many are concerned that — if they aren’t — players will be in that much more danger of major injury if the season were to begin on time. The league isn’t looking that far ahead just yet, but President Donald Trump is, having reportedly told commissioner Roger Goodell that the league should begin the season as planned in September and to stadiums full of fans.

The comment drew criticism from California governor Gavin Newsom, who “doesn’t anticipate” that happening in his state. That combines with projections from medical experts to keep the topic of a potential postponement to the NFL season very much on the table, but for now teams are simply trying to prep players however they can mentally — until they can again do so physically. 

With the 2020 NFL Draft also set to be held virtually, and several team officials considering doing it from the safety of their own home, while professional football has yet to feel the full wrath of COVID-19, it’s also been far from immune to its impact.

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