It’s been three months since Green Bay’s heartbreaking loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game. Although many fans are still mourning the Super Bowl that never was, take heart: a new season is upon us! As of today, the 2021 NFL Draft is 10 days away and the Packers can officially begin organized team activities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has once again complicated the league’s plans for the offseason. Last year’s OTAs were forced to be completely virtual, but this time around they’ll be a hybrid mix. Still, at least 11 teams have been informed that some (or all) of their players have opted not to participate in the voluntary aspects of the program.
There was speculation as to whether the Packers would join the boycott, but it remains a very unlikely possibility. The organization has long been placing workout bonuses in veteran’s contracts as an incentive for them to attend the offseason programs, especially because few live in Green Bay throughout the year. If the team did choose not to participate, 19 players — including some of their biggest names — would forfeit their bonuses. With figures ranging from $25,000 to $750,000, it would be a whopping $5.08 million loss combined.
Safety concerns expressed by the Players’ Association led to negotiations and some concessions made on the part of the league. So, with OTAs officially beginning today, here’s a look at the revised NFL offseason schedule the Packers will follow.
The first leg of the program will be four weeks long, running from April 19th to May 14th. All meetings must be virtual, meaning no drills on the field or working with coaches in person. Current restrictions limiting capacity in the teams’ facilities and weight rooms should remain in place. Additionally, each club should make COVID-19 immunizations available for players, staff, and their families and encourage them to get vaccinated.
The next stage is set to last for only one week, from May 17th to May 21st. Although meetings must continue virtually, athletes and coaches can begin on-field drills with no physical contact at a walkthrough speed. Offensive and defensive players should not line up opposite of each other. As facilities re-open, the NFL will require each team to resume the same COVID-19 guidelines that were enacted last season.
The final period of the offseason program will be four weeks in length from May 24th to June 18th. Clubs can choose to hold either virtual or in-person meetings. Full speed, contactless OTAs and a mandatory player minicamp can proceed as usual, with certain health precautions implemented.
Clubs are, once again, able to hold a rookie minicamp. It can be held on one of the two weekends after the draft, either May 7th-10th or May 14th-16th.
The Packer faithful remain optimistic that fans will be able to watch some OTA and minicamp practices, as is tradition. However, as the pandemic rages on, it’s still unknown whether they’ll be opened up to even a limited number.
But keep your eyes on the prize, Green and Gold Nation: the 2021 NFL season is just four months away. OTAs starting up is the first big step towards kick off in September, so get excited… Packer football will be back before you know it!
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