Norms continue to shift in the NFL, as New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton told his players Wednesday that they will not have any type of offseason program this spring, virtual or in person. Regardless of if the NFL rules change and allow players to return to their facilities, there will be no programs in New Orleans.
Payton was quoted saying –
“No virtual workouts, no online meetings, no workouts at the facility, even if it’s allowed. Show up in July for training camp in the best shape of your life.”
The rules set by the NFL and NFLPA for virtual off-season programs state that no NFL team is required to participate in the “Virtual Period,” which is defined as running from April 20 to May 15. Teams have the option to conduct classroom work online while not assigning any physical workouts to players. If a team decides to hold an offseason program, its players would receive their customary per diem payments ($235 minimum per day) just as if they were there in person and would be entitled to receive any offseason workout bonuses specified in their contracts, provided they fulfill the participation requirements their contracts specify.
If a team (such as the Saints) declines to participate in the “Virtual Period,” it will not be permitted to conduct an offseason workout program after that period ends — whether virtual or on-field. After the decided date of May 15, every team will have six weeks of off-season program time available to it, regardless of whether it used its three weeks from April 20 to May 15.
The memo leaves open the possibility that COVID-19 restrictions could be eased or lifted after May 15 but allows for the possibility that offseason programs would have to be conducted virtually after that date as well. It specifies that no team’s offseason program can run past June 26 and, perhaps most importantly, that if any team’s facility remains closed because of the coronavirus, then all 32 team facilities must remain closed.
The lockout prior to the 2011 season is the only thing really comparative to what’s currently happening as far as offseason programs go. It’s a wait-and-see approach for everyone, so after the NFL Draft this weekend, we’ll start to see a lot of big decisions on the horizon for the 2020-21 season.