GREEN BAY – Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures and the NFL, like so many other businesses, has been forced to adapt how it operates in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic currently affecting the country.
While the NFL Draft is scheduled to proceed later this month with a remote format, the league has started discussing potential alternatives to the traditional offseason program.
One possibility would be teams running a virtual program, which would enable strength-and-conditioning coaches and assistants to communicate with players remotely. In an interview with packers.com's Larry McCarren, Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy offered a glimpse into what that could look like.
"It's something that we've talked a lot about at the league level. Times like this, you gotta be very flexible," Murphy said. "Obviously, you want to have some semblance of an offseason. What a virtual program might look like would be starting off, strength coaches putting up (information) on zoom and talking and making presentations to players on what the workouts should look like and having one-on-one meetings with players.
"(Also) position coaches sitting down, maybe going through video and talking about some of the plays. It's certainly going to be very different."
The nine-week offseason program was supposed to start April 20 for the Packers before the league announced last month it was indefinitely postponing workouts.
Murphy acknowledged there still are a lot of questions to be answered, including a realistic timeline for when the offseason program and training camp could begin with a "stay-at-home" order throughout most of the country until the end of April.
In the meantime, General Manager Brian Gutekunst and his staff have been busy preparing for the 2020 season. Although the Packers lost veterans Bryan Bulaga, Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell in free agency, they have added linebacker Christian Kirksey, tackle Rick Wagner and receiver Devin Funchess.
As difficult as it is to lose established players, the Packers had the future in mind this offseason with several key players entering the final year of their contracts. That group includes defensive tackle Kenny Clark, left tackle David Bakhtiari, center Corey Linsley, cornerback Kevin King, and running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.
"Obviously, it's a little different than last year but I think Brian did a nice job," Murphy said. "A lot of this is not only trying to fill some holes – and we knew we'd likely or probably lose some people – but also we want to position ourselves (to extend) some of the key players who are entering into the last year of their contracts.
"It's a challenging process with the salary cap and the negotiations, but Brian and Russ Ball really work well together and I think we manage the cap as well as anybody."
As an organization, the Packers have established a COVID-19 community fund of $1.5 million to support Green Bay and the surrounding areas, donated thousands of meals to area schools and health-care workers, and pledged support to 10 local organizations in the first round of the Packers' relief efforts.
Individually, Murphy and his wife, Laurie, donated $240,000 to COVID-19 relief efforts in Green Bay and Door County.
"It's a great equalizer. We're all in this together," Murphy said. "This, too, will pass. It may take time but just keep the faith and take a long-term view. It's a challenging time and I think it's really important for all of us to work together. The best thing we can do is follow the guidelines."