Things are beginning to return to normal — or a new normal — in the NFL.
The format for the offseason program still is being negotiated between the NFL and its Players Association. The NFLPA wants no in-person work this spring, with president J.C. Tretter saying, “The NFL doesn’t get to decide when the pandemic is over.” In a memo sent to its teams this week, the NFL said it does not anticipate the programs being virtual the entire offseason.
Offseason programs will start virtually April 19.
But by the time training camp rolls around, there is optimism on both sides that COVID-19 vaccination programs currently being conducted around the country will allow the NFL to resume business as usual.
Steelers president Art Rooney II said Wednesday he expects his team to return to Saint Vincent College for training camp. He also is hoping for a stadium full of fans at Heinz Field this fall.
“I’m still optimistic about that,” Rooney told Bob Labriola of the team website, “but obviously we still have a way to go here. Hopefully the vaccination programs still stay on schedule and we get to a point this summer where we’re closer to back to normal, and in the fall we can have full stadiums. A way to go yet, but that’s what we’re hoping for.”
Although the NFL and NFLPA won’t require players, coaches and staff to get a COVID-19 shot, they will relax protocols for vaccinated players and teams. Rooney is a fan of the vaccine.
“‘Strongly encouraged’ is the phrase I would use for all of our employees, including players, and the same for fans,” Rooney said. “That’s something where we’re still going to be waiting for guidance from public authorities on that. There is discussion, and there are places right now that are requiring a vaccination card for admission. I know there is discussion about that, both at a federal level and at a state level, and whether there are going to be policies that will be agreed upon, we’ll wait and see how that goes. We’re waiting for more guidance. Our position on it is we’re not taking a position right now on requiring people to be vaccinated until we get to see more of the developments regarding federal policy and state policies.”