The New England Patriots have been relatively busy through the first week of free agency. The spread of the coronavirus could potentially slow down the acquisition process, however.
Physicals have been put on hold by NFL doctors because of the coronavirus pandemic.
NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport on Monday night tweeted out a letter sent by Dr. Anthony Casolaro, the president of the NFL Physicians Society, discontinuing future NFL-related physicals until the current health crisis passes.
Dr. Anthony Casolaro, co-head physician for the #Redskins & President of the NFL Physicians Society, sent a letter to the NFL & NFLPA discontinuing NFL-related physicals until the health crisis has passed. “Medical resources should focus on those who are ill or in need of care.” pic.twitter.com/1IDLzAvj7y
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 24, 2020
The letter reads:
“The Board of Directors of the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) have met by phone and communicated with members of Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) that the NFLPS has agreed to discontinue Combine rechecks, free agent physicals and physicals for non-Combine players until the health crisis has passed. We believe It is not in the interest of the players nor team medical staff to continue to perform these physicals.
“At a time of the most serious pandemic in our lifetime, we believe medical resources should focus on those who are ill or in need of care.
“We look forward to examining players when it is appropriate to do so.”
Players still can undergo a physical with a third-party doctor, however, The Washington Post’s Mark Maske reported Tuesday. That would go against the recommendation that “medical resources should focus on those who are ill or in need of care,” however, so it could create an issue of optics.
NFL teams still can arrange for a free agent or traded player to undergo a physical conducted by a third-party doctor in the player's home city or nearby, source says. Not much changes, in practical terms, after NFL Physician Society's decision for its members to cease physicals.
— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) March 24, 2020
The NFL released the following statement to ProFootballTalk:
“As previously announced, players who are free agents or subjects of a trade are not permitted to travel to meet with any club personnel, including members of the club medical staff. Club facilities are closed to any NFL player, unless that player has been receiving ongoing medical treatment by the club’s medical team. Club medical staff are prohibited from traveling to any location to meet with or conduct a medical examination of a player. This is consistent with procedures previously announced for draft-eligible college players. Clubs may arrange for a free agent or traded player to have medical exams conducted in the player’s home city or at another nearby location by a third-party doctor.”
The Patriots signed seven outside free agents prior to Monday’s announcement: Wide receiver Damiere Byrd, defensive tackle Beau Allen, safeties Adrian Phillips and Cody Davis, fullback Danny Vitale, quarterback Brian Hoyer and linebacker Brandon Copeland.
They re-signed wide receiver Matthew Slater, guard Joe Thuney and safety Devin McCourty and tendered defensive tackle Adam Butler, guard Jermaine Eluemunor and defensive end Keionta Davis.
The Patriots lost quarterback Tom Brady, center Ted Karras, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, linebackers Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy and safety Nate Ebner in free agency. They also traded safety Duron Harmon to the Detroit Lions.
Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse, center James Ferentz, linebacker Shilique Calhoun and kicker Nick Folk still are available in free agency.
It’s unclear when the coronavirus pandemic will pass, so there’s no timeline on when “NFL-related physicals” will restart. But if a team does want to sign a player, they still can have him undergo a physical through a third-party doctor.