NFL coaches may be allowed back into team facilities as early as next week, according to a memo the league released to teams Thursday, with a hope that some players could return “on a limited basis’’ before the end of the offseason program in June.
The memo was sent following the conclusion of the league’s annual May meeting Thursday, which was held virtually and included votes on a few rules change proposals and other regular business.
Last week, the NFL allowed teams to begin reopening facilities to non-coaching and non-playing personnel in areas where it is allowed.
The NFL’s memo said Thursday its expectation is that it will be able to add coaches returning as part of the next phase of reopening facilities, which will also include teams being allowed to reopen ticket offices, retail shops and what it calls other “customer-facing facilities.” Teams will be allowed to reopen those facilities, if it falls within state and local guidelines, on Monday.
The Seahawks’ facility in Renton remains closed for now as part of the state’s stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic that runs through May 31.
But the NFL’s memo Thursday appeared to hold out the idea that the league will work with state governments to try to keep teams on an even playing field.
The memo reiterated that one of the league’s goals as it attempts to reopen some operations is that the reopening “is conducted in a manner that is competitively fair.’’
The memo further stated that the league “is actively working with Governors and other state and local authorities in those states that have not yet announced definitive plans and will confirm the precise date on which coaches can return to the facility as soon as possible.’’
That appears to indicate the league will take all the steps it can to assure that teams are kept on an even playing field when it comes to any activity by coaches and players.
The league said it hopes “some players” could return “on a limited basis” before the end of the offseason program.
But before any players return, the league will also have to come to an agreement with the Players Association, as it acknowledged in its memo, stating it is “continuing to work’’ with the NFLPA on developing protocols for some players returning.
Still, the mention in the memo is the most concrete statement yet by the league that it hopes that some players can return to facilities by the end of the offseason training program, which are scheduled to end by June 26.
But whether that indicates there is any hope of players being on the field for minicamps next month — which was floated by Yahoo.com earlier this week — remains unclear. Several reports this week stated the general expectation around the league is that there would be no full-team, on-field work until training camps begin in late July.
A return of players in any capacity appears to be at least two weeks off as the league also announced Thursday that it will extend its virtual offseason program by two weeks. The program had been scheduled to end Friday.
The extension means that teams will continue to hold meetings virtually for at least two more weeks. Teams can hold two hours of classroom meetings and two hours of workout time per day.
The virtual workouts are taking the place of what, at this time of year, would normally be OTAs (Organized Team Activities), when teams would be allowed to hold up to 10 noncontact workouts on the field with their entire rosters.