In a normal year, the Seahawks would have welcomed back players next week for the beginning of the team’s voluntary offseason program, which would have started with three weeks of meetings and conditioning at the team’s practice facility in Renton.
But this is far from a normal year due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, and until Monday it was unclear if the league would have any sort of offseason program or what it would entail.
The league and the players association, though, added some clarity Monday to how the NFL’s offseason will proceed, reaching agreement on some new parameters for the offseason program.
Specifically, each team will be allowed to start their offseason programs April 20 with three weeks of a “virtual period’’ to conduct meetings, workouts and non-football educational programs via Skype or what the league termed “any other appropriate platform.’’
The “virtual period’’ must end by May 15.
This three-week period is what is typically referred to as “phase one’’ of the league’s offseason program.
What happens after that three-week period, though, remains unclear.
Typically after phase one, teams begin doing on-field work, first in separate groups of the offense and defense and then in full-team sessions, which culminates in organized team activities (OTAs) and a mandatory minicamp (phases two and three). Teams also are allowed to conduct a three-day rookie minicamp following the NFL draft.
A memo sent out by the league to teams Monday (which was revealed by ESPN’s Adam Schefter among others) noted that the league said if team facilities are re-opened by the end of phase one then teams can resume on-field workouts.
However, the league stated that if just one team facility can not open due to local, state or federal coronavirus guidelines, then all club facilities must remain closed.
Mark Maske of The Washington Post reported the league plans to make another assessment after the three-week virtual period ends May 15 as to whether on-field work will be possible. If not, then the league will allow for a second set of virtual programs. The window for the offseason program to conclude is June 26.
The league is taking that stance to assure competitive balance, and not allowing any team to conduct on-field workouts when others cannot.
The league already has set in place guidelines for conducting the draft April 23-25 virtually, which NFL confirmed Monday when it announced ESPN and the NFL Network will combine “to offer a singular presentation’’ on both networks (with ABC presenting its own prime-time telecast for rounds 1-3).
The announcement Monday of parameters for the offseason program will at least allow the coaches of the Seahawks and the other 31 teams some certainty in how to go forward for the next month.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio last week that Seahawks staffers were waiting to find out how the offseason would proceed.
“We just kind of keep grinding and stay with the mentality kind of like if they tell us next week we are on then we are attempting to be as prepared as possible,’’ Carroll said of the offseason program. “We are competing like crazy right now to make sense of how to do this remotely.’’
Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reported that the league and the players association had been in talks “for weeks.’’ The NFLPA confirmed in a statement that the vote to approve the agreement was unanimous.
The NFLPA was motivated to get something done because many players have bonuses tied to attending voluntary workouts — Field Yates of ESPN reported that more than 250 players have such “workout” bonuses.
However, the Seahawks have not commonly included workout bonuses in contracts and they currently have just one player with a workout bonus — safety Quandre Diggs, who is due to get $100,000 via his contract that he negotiated when he was still a member of the Detroit Lions before being traded to Seattle last October.
Teams have not been able to work officially with players since the end of the 2019 season, with teams first gathering anew each year with the beginning of the offseason program.
The meeting time is especially vital for young plyers and those new to the team, which for Seattle means the first chance to officially integrate free agents into the team as a whole, such as tight end Greg Olsen, receiver Phillip Dorsett and offensive linemen Brandon Shell and B.J. Finney.
The league also agreed to provide a stipend of $1,500 to every player to purchase any equipment needed to conduct home workouts.