CHARLOTTE – Matt Rhule learned the hard way as a rookie head coach in the NFL, that there are certain things you can't really plan for.
Pandemics definitely fall into that category.
So when Carolina's coach had a press conference Monday, he wasn't really sure what he was going to be able to do in terms of an offseason program, but he had made a conscious decision to fret less about it. Wednesday, he got some guidance, and now knows the team can start their offseason program next Monday with a virtual meeting component and four weeks of conditioning.
"Last year I spent a lot of time worrying and projecting and trying to figure out what was what, and I figured out pretty soon all that was doing was providing stress," Rhule said Monday. "I'm prepared, our staff is prepared to start next Monday, the 19th. And if something changes, it changes. And we'll adapt from there."
The league sent out a memo to teams Wednesday which outlined the parameters of the programs, which are entirely voluntary for players except for one mandatory minicamp in mid-June.
Starting next Monday, teams are allowed to begin the four-week first phase. That includes two hours a day of virtual meetings, and allows the weight room to be open, with limits on occupancy for safety reasons (10 players in the weight room at a time). There's no on-field work, or in-person work with coaches during that first month.
Starting on May 17, teams can transition to a week of on-field work conducting at installation pace, with no contact allowed. The third phase is the more familiar OTA routine, with 10 days of full-speed (but non-contact) work.
Teams will continue with COVID-19 protocols as they did last year, including testing, social distancing, and mask-wearing, things they're all used to after last year's entirely virtual offseason.