Big news for the upcoming NFL season is starting to drop. Per Chris Mortensen, the NFL Players Association and the NFL Management Council have entered into discussions with an eye toward the upcoming season.
Sources: NFLPA executive board and NFL Management Council have started negotiations on two fronts:— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 24, 2021
1. The players want to repeat 2020 model of an entirely virtual off-season while owners want to return to the previous norms that include OTAs and minicamps at team facilities.
3. As to the immediate 2021 off-season, union wants daily COVID-19 testing if owners demand players to conduct OTAs on team sites.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 24, 2021
NFLPA expects that training camps can be conducted w/o daily testing, believing majority of players will have been vaccinated by then.
As you can see above, the Players Union is advocating for a mostly virtual offseason, mirroring what we saw in 2020. Owners are pushing back on this and working to get players back in team facilities prior to training camp. The NFLPA is requesting daily COVID testing for in-person activities until the majority of players have been vaccinated, which sounds likely to be by the onset camp.
Perhaps the biggest news to drop is the belief that the 17-game season will arrive this year. This would entail an abbreviated 3-game preseason, which would keep the 20-game schedule intact. As I detailed last week, the NFL’s announcement of new broadcast deals paved the way for this expected change.
Another primarily virtual offseason that mirrors what we saw last year could have a major impact on player development, especially for rookies. The 2020 CBA brought substantial changes to offseason expectations for players, specifically with regard to training camp and padded practices. These included a reduction in number of padded practices from 28 to 16, along with other caps on items like number of consecutive days of padded practice and expected reporting dates. Per Dan Graziano of ESPN, further restrictions are expected with the onset of a 17-game schedule, such as a restriction on additional padded practices being tacked on in-season. These reductions, coupled with the potential for more virtual events in the offseason may result in a steeper learning curve for young players in 2021. Stay tuned for more to come as negotiations continue.