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NFL, Players Figure Out Rules For 'Virtual' Offseason

Players can't return to team facilities until all of league is able

On the first day of the Cardinals' 2019 offseason workouts, (from left) wide receiver Christian Kirk, running back Chase Edmonds and wide receiver Trent Sherfield stretch before running.
On the first day of the Cardinals' 2019 offseason workouts, (from left) wide receiver Christian Kirk, running back Chase Edmonds and wide receiver Trent Sherfield stretch before running.

Just a few days before next week's draft, the Cardinals are allowed to begin their voluntary offseason program.

In any other year, the start would include players returning to the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center for workouts in the weight room and running on the field under strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris. But this is not any other year, and with the coronavirus impacting the world, the Cards' facility remains closed as is the rest of the NFL.

On Monday, the NFL and the NFL Players Association came to terms on just how the offseason will play out, through a memo widely reported on nationally.

The "virtual" period of the offseason runs from April 20 to May 15, with teams allowed to conduct meetings and, if an organization chooses, workouts virtually. Normally, the Cards would have been able to start April 20, but with the COVID-19 delays, only teams with new head coaches can start April 20, and teams with returning head coaches -- including the Cardinals -- can start April 27. Teams are allowed to spend up to $1,500 to provide players with necessary workout equipment, and there are mechanisms in place to pay players workout bonuses and weekly per diem money.

After May 15, the program may or may not be virtual after that, depending on COVID-19 restrictions at the time. An important point: The facilities can open for players only once all 32 teams are cleared by their respective home states to do so -- so if just one state remains on lockdown and a team facility cannot be used, no teams can open up for players.

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury already was embracing the online teaching when he spoke about approaching offseason work.

"We'll do the Zoom meetings when we're allowed to and do every sort of tele-coaching that we can come up with," Kingsbury said. "There's nothing like being on the grass. But everyone is dealing with it, so the teams that are able to adjust and adapt the best are going to have the most success early in the season."

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