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(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The NFL has announced a big step towards fully bringing back the offseason program after last year’s absence.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports the league has notified teams they can begin Phase 1 of OTAs (organized team activities) on Monday, April 19. Conversations in regard to whether in-person or virtual meetings will occur are ongoing.

In a normal year, teams with new head coaches — for example, the Jets with Robert Saleh — could’ve started the OTA period on Monday.

A normal offseason period did not take place in 2020 due to the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given a vaccine is now present and the NFL is more prepared to work around the pandemic, the league is taking a big step toward returning to normalcy.

This isn’t the first major step though.

The league recently announced the 2021 NFL Draft will be held in Cleveland, Ohio with a limited number of prospects, media, and fans permitted to attend. This is in comparison to last offseason’s virtual version of the event in which prospects, whether it was No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow or Mr. Irrelevant Tae Crowder, watched from home with family and/or friends.

It’s unclear how the training camp period will play out in 2021. Obviously it will occur just like it did last year, but we’ve yet to hear of any major protocol-related changes in order for players, coaches, and personnel to remain safe. Of course, that time period is still months away from the present day.

The preseason will likely return after undergoing a coronavirus-related cancellation in 2020. However, due to the planned schedule change, there will only be three exhibition games for teams instead of the usual four. This coincides with the regular season’s expansion from 16 to 17 games.

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