FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England's newest players might be able to suit up in their new gear as soon as mid-April. According to a report from today's virtual NFL annual meeting, all clubs can begin their formal offseason workout programs on Monday, April 19. Normally, teams with new head coaches are allowed a two-week head-start, but apparently, that concession is not being granted this year.
You may recall that last spring, amidst the pandemic-related shutdowns worldwide, NFL teams were forced to conduct all their usual offseason workouts on a remote basis, until training camps opened in August. It remains to be seen just how the structure of this year's offseason will change, if at all, from last year, as many locations remain in various phases of restrictions due to the health crisis.
During a normal offseason, teams would arrange their offseason workouts in three so-called Phases, with each one adding more than the previous in terms of hours permitted, types of workouts conducted, and in-person interaction between players and coaches. This year, it seems the "virtual" element will apply to the start of the programs, but not necessarily throughout, according to a media report on the second day of the Annual Meeting.
The report goes on to indicate that, while vaccinations of players and staff won't be mandated, it would behoove clubs to achieve as high a rate of vaccinations as possible to allow for relaxation of restrictions with regard to meetings, meals, and access to locker rooms – luxuries that were not permitted a year ago at this time.
With so many new faces having been added to New England's roster during this month's free agent signing period, head coach Bill Belichick and his coaching staff are no doubt anxious to start working with their reworked roster as much and as soon as possible. The Patriots could have a valuable opportunity this year that was taken away in 2020 due to the pandemic – the chance to work in person and on the field with the players before training camps open in late summer.