FRISCO, Texas – April 6 used to be a key date on the Cowboys' calendar.
With a new head coach (Mike McCarthy) in place, the club would have been permitted to start its normal voluntary offseason program Monday, two weeks earlier than teams with returning coaches.
Instead, the nation's COVID-19 crisis has put offseason workouts on hold throughout the league. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently informed the 32 teams that their facilities will be closed with "limited exceptions" until the league reassesses the situation on Wednesday, April 8, according to NFL Media. (Update: The NFL announced Monday afternoon that team facilities would remain temporarily closed indefinitely.)
Typically, phase one of the Cowboys' program would be a two-week period of strength and conditioning and rehab work with strength and conditioning coaches. Phase two features on-field individual and team work on a "separates" basis for three weeks. OTAs and minicamp usually comprise phase three, with the Cowboys granted a second minicamp because of McCarthy's arrival.
In a normal offseason, this would be McCarthy's chance to begin scheme installation and set the groundwork for his program. But a global pandemic eliminates normal circumstances. Public safety and social distancing understandably have taken priority over NFL offseason business as part of a nationwide effort to stop the virus from spreading.
If facilities remain closed temporarily for future days and weeks, how might the Cowboys and the rest of the league try to implement offseason programs remotely while practicing social distance policies? The NFL has not yet announced what that might look like.
"I still think they're trying to figure out the logistics of trying to learn and have meetings," linebacker Sean Lee said recently on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "Hopefully we can get past this and have some type of offseason, but if not, I think there's a game plan to maybe use some technology, to use the iPads, maybe the Skype, to have some of those meetings. Because there's no question offensively and defensively trying to learn new systems, kind of systems that are probably different than what we've had in the past, we're going to need to have those meetings and have that time."
With the NFL Draft also on the calendar for late April, teams have begun holding virtual pre-draft visits with prospects. That might remain the norm for the foreseeable future until the country flattens the curve against COVID-19.