The NovaCare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field will close on March 13, the Philadelphia Eagles announced on Thursday. As the NFL discusses its next steps in an offseason with the new calendar year and the start of free agency scheduled to start next Wednesday, March 18, at 4 PM, the Eagles made the decision to close their offices in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
"Our staff, with limited exceptions, have been instructed to work from home," said the statement from Chairman/CEO Jeffery Lurie. "We are continuing our preparations for the 2020 season, including free agency and the draft, and will monitor developments as more information becomes available. The health and safety of our community, players, employees and fans will remain paramount as we continue to make decisions over the coming days and weeks."
Said President Don Smolenski: "It's been a fluid situation, one where conditions have changed fairly quickly. I think everyone is trying to make good decisions with the safety of the larger community, the broader community in mind."
Smolenski and the football operations department are confident the Eagles are well prepared for this challenge, having operated remotely as recently as December 2017 during the week between games as the team stayed in Los Angeles and then in February 2018 as the team worked remotely in the week before Super Bowl LII. The Eagles worked out of the team hotel in Minneapolis that week as the football team prepared to play the New England Patriots. It was an experience that serves the team well in this time of national crisis.
"In hindsight, both of those instances prepared us for where we are today," Smolenski said.
For the coaches and players, the interruption in the offseason changes lives. The team's offseason conditioning program isn't scheduled to start until late April, so only a handful of players have been present at the NovaCare Complex throughout the offseason to date, either receiving treatment from the athletic training staff or conditioning in the strength and conditioning room. Those players will still have the opportunity to work with the trainers and get their workouts in.
"We want to keep this as safe an environment as possible, so the players who are rehabbing and working out are in an environment where they feel like they can come in here in a time of uncertainty," Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman said. "It's a 'dead' period in the NFL, so if players want to work out it's on their own accord. This is a place they can come, they can work out, they can get their rehab in. We just want to make sure at this point in time that we're limiting the exposure for the amount of people that we have in this organization."
The coaching staff and the personnel department are prepared for free agency, with the plan laid out in the time since the 2019 season ended with the playoff loss to Seattle. The coaching staff and scouts had already been taken off the road, where they normally would be attending draft prospects' Pro Days ahead of the April 23 NFL Draft.
Now, personnel staff and coaches, with some exceptions, will work from home.
"We're in the process of looking at these kids in college, potential draft prospects, trying to make sure that we get the proper evaluation on those kids," said Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach Duce Staley. "Sometimes you have to leave the office and do the private workouts, so with the news that the office is shut down, it affects us in a big way.
"So, you work from home. Technology is so good, especially during a time like now. You work from home, you take your tablets home, and you're able to still study these guys and give a full report."
For the players, well, it's a whole different world in many ways, but the NFL is fortunate in that it's not in midseason. The NBA suspended its season on Wednesday night. The NHL and Major League Baseball followed suit on Thursday.
The NFL announced Thursday afternoon that its Annual Meeting at the end of this month is canceled. As of now, the new business year is scheduled to kick off on March 18 at 4 PM.
"It's going to be interesting to see," said safety Rodney McLeod, scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday. "I try to talk to my agent as much as I can to see if he has a feel or see if he can give me some insight on what he's hearing. I had a conversation with Howie, who said free agency might get pushed back. You see March Madness (NCAA basketball tournament) might get canceled and you think about a lot of those players who live in that moment and depend on that moment to rise their stock for the draft. It's affecting a lot and it's something that everybody should take seriously and address appropriately."