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NFL informs teams that virtual workouts likely won’t return

On Wednesday, we got some welcome news about the offseason.

Carolina Panthers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the NFL informed clubs that their 2021 offseason programs could begin on April 19 — just under three weeks from now. While the league provided a start date, it provided little specific information about how the Kansas City Chiefs — or any other team — would be allowed to proceed.

But in a memo sent to teams on Wednesday — and obtained by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero — the league provided a little more clarity.

As we learned on Tuesday, teams will continue to conduct meetings virtually — at least initially — while workouts among small groups of players may proceed. Teams are being asked to update their IDER documents (their individual plans for reducing potential COVID-19 transmission in their facilities) and ensure they remain in compliance with them.

But while the league remained somewhat non-committal — acknowledging that discussions continue with the NFL Players Association on the precise course of the offseason — the memo said that “[W]e do not anticipate a duplication of last season’s virtual workout program.”

This suggests that we could see in-person workouts as early as Phase II of the offseason program, which would likely begin in early May.

And while the league continues to avoid mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for players, coaches and other team employees, it made it clear there would be advantages for teams that encouraged them.

“It is also anticipated that clubs that achieve a certain rate of vaccination among its tiered staff and players may be permitted to relax restrictions that apply to meetings, mealtime and use of locker rooms.”

Coupled with commissioner Roger Goodell’s Tuesday statement that the league expects its stadiums to be full this fall, this shows the NFL is proceeding — albeit carefully — on a path to something like... normalcy.