Sports News

NFL, union ban free-agent travel, postpone OTAs

The National Football League and NFL Players Association jointly announced Monday that offseason activities will be postponed or altered due to the spread of the coronavirus.

The declaration came eight hours after the NFL’s “legal tampering” window for free agents opened, with numerous players and teams reaching contract agreements and executing trades.

The changes include:

--banning travel for free agents to visit teams or for team officials to visit free agents.

--the postponement of offseason team activities (OTAs) that were due to start April 6 for teams with new coaches, April 20 for all other teams.

--the closing of team facilities for two weeks, except for players who are receiving medical treatments.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in the joint statement: “It is our responsibility to work together and protect the health, safety and well being of everyone in our business. Nonetheless, public safety is paramount during this national emergency and we will continue to work with the NFL, medical experts and seek guidance from federal agencies to adjust our business practices accordingly.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell added in the statement: “Based on the most recent guidance provided by leading health officials, and in consultation with the NFLPA and both our and the union’s medical advisors, we believe this is the appropriate way to protect the health of our players, staff, and our communities. We will continue to make decisions based on the best advice from medical and public health experts and will be prepared to make further modifications as needed.”

The ban on travel related to free agency will spark new procedures regarding medical tests for players who are changing teams.

The statement read, “The NFL and NFLPA are developing protocols that will provide clubs with opportunities to review a free agent player’s medical records from his prior club(s) and to arrange for a free agent player to have a medical exam in the player’s home city or at another nearby location. These steps are consistent with those announced last Friday for club contact with draft-eligible college players.”

Regarding a potential start date for OTAs, the sides announced, “The parties will periodically meet and reassess the public health situation to determine an appropriate start date for any offseason team activities and other related considerations as this situation develops.”

New protocols will be put in place for clubs regarding the cleaning of facilities and the identification of any players or staff members “who may be at elevated risk.”

Before the joint announcement, the NFL had been the only major U.S. sports entity conducting business as usual amid the coronavirus pandemic -- albeit the NFL is currently in its offseason. The NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS all shut down, and the NCAA canceled all of its championship events, including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

--Field Level Media