Due to concerns about COVID-19, the NFL has mandated that all teams delay the start of their offseason programs indefinitely and follow special procedures when the new league year begins at 3 p.m. (CT) Wednesday.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made that announcement Monday following discussions with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and consultations between the medical teams for the NFL and NFLPA, and based on coronavirus guidance from public health officials.
The Bears and other teams with returning head coaches would have been able to begin their offseason programs April 20, while clubs with new head coaches could have started their programs April 6. But that no longer will happen.
According to a statement released by the NFL, the parties will continue to follow the guidance of medical and public health professionals, including their respective medical advisors. They will periodically meet and reassess the public health situation to determine an appropriate start date for any offseason team activities and other related considerations as this situation develops.
Over the course of the next several weeks, NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer and NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills—in consultation with the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network (DICON), and other league and NFLPA advisors on infectious disease control—will develop a standard set of protocols for clubs to implement regarding facility cleaning and maintenance, equipment preparation, steps to identify player and staff who may be at elevated risk, and other preventive measures.
The statement included the following information as well:
Free agent travel and medical procedures
During the upcoming free agency period, which begins at 3 p.m. (CT) Wednesday, NFL clubs may not bring any free agent player to a club facility or other location to meet with club personnel. Further, club personnel, including members of the club medical staff, may not travel to any location to meet with or conduct a medical examination of a free agent player.
The NFL and NFLPA are developing protocols that will provide clubs with opportunities to review a free agent player's medical records from his prior club(s) and to arrange for a free agent player to have a medical exam in the player's home city or at another nearby location. These steps are consistent with those announced last Friday for club contact with draft-eligible college players.
Access to club facilities
As a further step to address issues relating to COVID-19, NFL clubs will close their facilities to players, other than those undergoing medically-supervised rehabilitation and treatment, for the next two weeks.
"It is our responsibility to work together and protect the health, safety and well-being of everyone in our business," Smith said. "Nonetheless, public safety is paramount during this national emergency and we will continue to work with the NFL, medical experts and seek guidance from federal agencies to adjust our business practices accordingly."
"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 said. "We will continue to make decisions based on the best advice from medical and public health experts and will be prepared to make further modifications as needed."