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The NFL Combine and the rest of the offseason is expected to look very different than in years past

The Senior Bowl will go on as scheduled, but that appears to be the only event that can say that at this time.

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The 2020 regular season was unlike any that we’ve seen before, as teams had to navigate around the COVID-19 restrictions that were put in place. The hope was that the 2021 offseason would be different, but it’s already shaping up to be a virtual offseason.

Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported that there’s a strong chance that the NFL Combine won’t go on as normal based on a call that was held this past Friday:

League officials—with medical people, team personnel and National Football Scouting president Jeff Foster on the line—held a call Friday to discuss again how to proceed with the run-up to the 2021 NFL draft. According to well-placed sources, the idea of having the combine in Indianapolis in any sort of traditional manner on time is dead, and the overwhelming likelihood is that the performance and medical components are split up.

Breer’s article read as if there is concern whether medical checks at the NFL Combine will be standardized and have reliable results. We could see regional medical checks, and Zoom interviews aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

Here’s more info on the potential testing locations:

Concepts centered on regionalized medical checks, with teams allowed to send one or two people (either doctors or trainers) each to attend. Teams made clear to the NFL that the gathering of medical information was the one piece of the combine that was most vital and hardest for them to replicate independently. The likelihood now is the NFL will have the checks at hospitals in places where large numbers of players are doing combine prep—like Florida, California, Arizona and Texas (85 percent of prospects are working out in those four states)—to cut down on players’ travel. Also worth noting: many team docs traveling to those sites will have been vaccinated.

We’re used to getting players 40, vertical, height, weight, etc. all in one spot at the NFL Combine. Expect performance testing to happen on college campuses across the country:

More formalized pro days to replace the lost workouts. This would mean either team or league officials conducting drills and testing on campus, with everything standardized and information dispersed as it would be at the combine.

Pre-draft visits have been canceled. That may work in the 49ers' favor as the league allowed more virtual visits last year as they appeared over Zoom. More important than anything, specifically for the players that are already on the roster, is whether the NFL will reinstate minicamps and OTAs.

Year 2 is when players generally take their biggest jumps as players, so having the 49ers 2020 rookie class in the building could go a long way. Based on how the real world is going and handling the pandemic, it isn’t easy to be optimistic to think that those offseason activities will happen.

The Senior Bowl will go on as planned at the end of January. We know that San Francisco has been heavily involved in scouting and drafted players who participated in that game. Outside of the Senior Bowl, the rest of the offseason is in question.

For the players' sake, losing a second offseason or having less time in the building would serve as a major challenge. It’s not ideal for DeMeco Ryans to go through his first offseason as a coordinator in these conditions.

We’ll provide updates about the offseason as they continue to come in.