The NFL Draft is quite literally and figuratively on the clock.
While the immediate future of sports lingers in limbo, one highly-anticipated annual event appears to remain on schedule after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued the league-wide memo on Thursday. The draft is set for April 23-25 in Las Vegas.
According to a report from ESPN, reporter Adam Schefter obtained a copy of the memo which included a warning to everyone across the league who may be against the league’s decision to move forward despite the current landscape of hosting events during the outbreak of COVID-19/Coronavirus.
This decision will obviously come with some push back and Goodell acknowledged that himself. “Public discussion of issues relating to the draft serves no useful purpose and is grounds for disciplinary action,” Goodell stated in the memo.
The NFL Management Council Executive Committee met Thursday and according to the report, it was “unanimous and unequivocal that the draft should go forward as scheduled.” A pretty eyebrow-raising decision to make at this point.
Sure, we are just under a month away from the scheduled date and things could change (insert “improve” in air quotes) by then. But most indications thus far seem to suggest this virus will only spread further still before our lives return to normal.
It goes without saying several major changes will be implemented this year and it will be a NFL draft unlike any other in the history of the league or professional sports in general.
In a report from NFL.com, on Monday, all NFL-related physicals were indefinitely stopped, therefore no free agents or draft prospects can be examined until it is deemed the Coronavirus crisis has passed. (Ummm, what?!) Late Tuesday, Goodell sent out a statement announcing that all 32 team facilities would be closed.
The commissioner told teams to be prepared to conduct the draft outside of team facilities with a limited number of people. Furthermore, prospects and their families will NOT be on-site at the draft. Say goodbye to those immediate photo-ops with the commissioner on stage, fellas. Might want to pump the brakes on having everybody in the family come over for a watch party, too.
“Everyone recognizes that the public health conditions are highly uncertain and there is no assurance that we can select a different date and be confident that conditions will be significantly more favorable than they are today,” Goodell said in the memo.
And I get it, I really do. The NFL draft is a little different situation and isn’t necessarily simple as cancelling it or rescheduling it for a random date closer to summer. Sure, I would love for this to go on as planned but I also hate for the players to miss out on the real draft day experience. Reaching this day has been a goal for these men and I hate that they will be robbed of the full moment they’ve dreamed of since their earliest days in full pads.
Then there’s the aspect of having this event at all right now as the known COVID-19 cases have surpassed 81,000 as of Thursday afternoon in the United States with over 1,000 reported virus-related deaths. Maybe, it is just not the right time. My gut just tells me this should be pushed back. But believe it or not, Goodell didn’t ask for my opinion.
At the bare minimum, what would it take to put on a professional broadcast and provide adequate coverage with the least amount of people on-site in Vegas? Not to mention the health and safety of all involved. I don’t have that answer but something tells me it takes more a few people together physically for this to work…..yeah…that kinda goes against the whole social distancing thing we are supposed to be avoiding right now. Ever been on a production truck or van? I have and you don’t exactly get a great deal of personal space.
How does that play into this? And who is to say a team won’t push the limits of people allowed together on draft day as they work through the process, thus putting more and more lives at risk all for the sake of the NFL draft?
As a fan watching at home it will make the broadcast much different than what we’ve grown accustomed to. As a fan desperate for any “live” sports content that matters, I probably won’t complain. Although, I’m not 100 percent sure you can file this one as “it’s better than nothing”.
I can’t imagine being a team owner or working in the front office on draft day. It has already been harder since teams had less time than normal to prepare, scout and meet with prospects since this outbreak began. To make things extra spicy, teams will now get to participate in the 2020 NFL draft from the comfort (?) of the living room couch or seated around the kitchen bar—ya know, just like I do for my fantasy draft every fall. No pressure.
In the ESPN report, New Orleans Saints’ general manager Mickey Loomis, a member of the GM subcommittee, expressed his preference to push back the draft, during his appearance on “The Peter King Podcast” on Wednesday, one day prior to Goodell’s memo.
“I’d be personally in favor of delaying the draft, so that we can get some of the work done that our scouts and our personnel people ordinarily do,” Loomis said. “And then just the logistics of trying to conduct the draft, with not having access to your draft rooms and your offices, creates a lot of logistic problems.”