Panthers have their offseason schedule set as NFL releases OTA plan

Alaina Getzenberg
·3 min read
The Charlotte skyline rises in the background as the Carolina Panthers practice during training camp on Tuesday, August 18, 2020.

NFL offseason programs are just around the corner.

With organized team activities (OTA) scheduled to begin next week, the league shared the schedule with all 32 teams, including four weeks of solely virtual work followed by some in-person activity.

Spanning nine weeks, all of the programs are voluntary except one mandatory mini-camp. The announcement of the schedule comes from the NFL. The NFL Player’s Association, on the other hand, is continuing to advocate for a completely virtual schedule, replicating what occurred last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five teams’ players — the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots — have shared statements stating that many members of those teams will be choosing not to participate in any in-person activity. The NFLPA believes this is what is best and most logical for players based on the pandemic and overall safety.

COVID protocols that are remaining in place include previous rules such as wearing masks and distancing. Teams will now be using rapid-response testing for COVID-19 as opposed to tests that take 24 hours to get the results.

The NFL informed clubs Tuesday that team employees, not including players, who refuse a COVID-19 vaccination and do not have “bona fide medical or religious ground” will have restricted access within the facility and not be able to work directly with players. Teams will report a count of how many people are vaccinated to the league weekly. Certain restrictions will become more lenient for those who have been vaccinated, creating incentives for players, coaches and staff to do so.

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has been among those who have spoken publicly about the importance of having time to work with players at the facility, while also remaining flexible with whatever circumstances are presented.

“Right now, I’m planning to get started next Monday. If I get direction that, ‘hey, that’s virtual,’ or ‘hey, that’s canceled.’ or anything like that I’ll adapt,” Rhule said. “Last year I spent a lot of time worrying and projecting and trying to figure out what was what, and I realized pretty soon that all that was doing was providing stress. I’m

The Panthers will hold their OTAs in Charlotte.

Here is the schedule as planned by the NFL:

Phase 1, April 19 to May 14: Meetings will only take place virtually for two hours per day at the team’s discretion. While there will be no on-field work, players will have the weight room and facility available, as it has been this offseason.

It is also clear from the league’s memo that during this time there will be an emphasis placed on making COVID-19 vaccinations available to players, staff members and their families.

Phase 2, May 17 to May 21: Virtual meetings will continue, but on-field drills with coaches can now begin with no contact. A rookie mini-camp is also expected this week.

Phase 3, May 24 to June 18: Teams can hold 10 practices that are full speed, but include no contact. This time frame will also contain a three-day mandatory mini-camp, the only aspect required during this time. Meetings can take place in person or virtually.

Many players have workout bonuses tied to attending voluntary offseason workouts, including Panther safety Juston Burris, who a has $600,000 workout bonus this year, per Over the Cap. Many players are being told to do what is best for them, especially in these types of cases.

This story is breaking and will be updated.