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NFL announces changes to offseason program due to COVID-19

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Monday night that the league and NFLPA have agreed to indefinitely delay the start of teams' offseason programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision to delay offseason programs came following discussions with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and consultations between the medical teams for the league and union in addition to guidance from public health officials on the new coronavirus crisis.

Teams with new head coaches were scheduled to begin their offseason program April 6, while April 20 was the date for the rest of the league's teams. Teams also have been instructed to close their facilities to players -- other than those undergoing medically supervised rehab -- for the next two weeks.

"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," Goodell said in a statement. "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 NFL also announced a set of guidelines for free agency when it officially begins at the start of the new league year, March 18 at 4 p.m. ET. Teams are not allowed to bring in prospective free-agent players "to a club facility or other location to meet with club personnel." Team personnel -- including medical staff -- also may not travel to any location to meet with or examine a free-agent player.

The league and union 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," per the league's statement. "These steps are consistent with those announced last Friday for club contact with draft-eligible college players."

"It is our responsibility to work together and protect the health, safety and well being of everyone in our business," Smith said in a statement. "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."

OTAs are the latest event on the NFL calendar to be affected by the worldwide spread of COVID-19.

The NFL announced earlier Monday that the 2020 draft will proceed as scheduled April 23-25 and will be televised, but the annual selection process will no longer include public events in Las Vegas.

Last week, the league prohibited teams from conducting pre-draft visits to team facilities.

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