Updated April 13, 2020 - 6:53 pm
With the short- and long-term uncertainty and restrictions created by COVID-19 continually hovering, the NFL and NFL Players Association have devised a plan to conduct a voluntary offseason program.
It is anything but normal. And it will pit the most technologically sound teams against the ones behind that important curve.
And it will mean the Raiders potentially opening official preparations for their first season in Las Vegas in virtual classrooms from which coaches will teach and interact with players as far as 3,000 miles away.
And perhaps by creating high-tech cyberspace practices fields out of coaches’ living rooms to replicate on-field workouts with players spread all across the country.
These are unusual times. And, for now, this is the new norm.
The virtual NFL offseason program kicks off Monday for teams that made head coaching changes. All other teams, including the Raiders, open a week later. Phase 1 of the program runs from Monday to May 15 and will consist primarily of virtual classroom work utilizing videoconferencing capabilities such as Zoom or Skype.
After Phase 1, the NFL will huddle with medical experts and assess any current COVID-19 federal, state and local restrictions still in place to determine whether teams can transition to a more traditional on-field program at their facilities.
The NFL, though, will only move forward in a traditional manner for the six-week Phase 2 period if all 32 teams get clearance from their state and local leaders to reopen their facilities. Absent that, teams will proceed with virtual on-field workouts beginning May 18 through June 26.
Also, the NFL said all team facilities will remain closed until all 32 franchises are allowed to open.
While there are challenges to a virtual offseason, it can serve an important purpose.
“It has the virtue of allowing clubs and players to start preparing for the 2020 season,” NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said on a conference call. “And doing it in a way that recognizes the changed circumstances we’re under.”
Teams will be allowed to send players workout equipment at a limit of $1,500 per player.
As per typical NFL policy, teams are not mandated to conduct offseason programs, and participation by players is voluntary. Players historically have been incentivized to attend by the way of workout bonuses, and the same requirements to cash in on bonuses will be in play for virtual attendance as it would for live attendance.
With the Raiders’ new practice facility in Henderson not scheduled to open until mid-June, their plan was to conduct organized team activities in Alameda, California, and hold their mandatory minicamp in Henderson in June.