Mason Thompson | March 13th, 2020
This week, a multitude of high-profile sporting events were postponed or canceled due to the coronavirus. Events like March Madness and the Big Ten and SEC basketball championship brackets have been canceled and a couple of NBA players have tested positive for the virus since the league’s announcement of the league being suspended. The NFL is in its offseason but is now approaching the time where the teams address their needs by flying in players from all over the country for visits with free agents and draft-eligible players. I’ll take a look at how the virus has affected the league already as well as events in the near future it could affect.
You can read our article about the virus here.
Cancellation of the Annual Owners Meeting
On Thursday, commissioner, Roger Goodell notified teams that the league’s annual meeting scheduled for March 29th-April 1st has been canceled in Florida. Along with owners being at the meeting, head coaches and general managers are also at the meeting. During the meeting, the Owners, coaches and General Managers vote on rule changes. Now, per Tom Pelissero, the league will conduct these votes during the May meeting.
New League Year Plan
This Saturday is the deadline players have to vote on the new CBA. The CBA vote deadline was pushed back to Saturday, as well as the deadline to franchise tag players to Monday. The legal tampering period is still scheduled to take place on the 16th and the new league year will open on the 18th as planned.
Free agency is drastically affected as the players have to get on a plane to go visit the teams. Even if the interviews are taken over the phone, the players still need to pass physicals to sign with the team. To do this, the players have to go to the team’s facility and take that physical. Many deals could potentially take longer because of this.
Pro Days/Official Pre-Draft Visits
Thursday’s set of pro days might be the last one where tons of coaches and general managers attend. Thankfully, pro days are taped and sent to teams so you don’t have to be in attendance to watch players. Even with this new development, there are pro and college scouts that have been traveling around the country for months and are now coming back to do work ahead of free agency and the draft. Are we going to test all of the scouts for the virus once back at the team’s facility?
The Redskins were the first team to suspend pro day travel, which includes all scouts and coaches. Along with this, the Redskins have canceled all 30 pre-draft visits to their facility. Along with the Redskins, the Falcons, Bills, Panthers, Lions, Packers, Jaguars, Chiefs, Chargers, Dolphins, Vikings, Giants, and Buccaneers have suspended all travel from scouts and coaches. Along with the Redskins, the Bears have canceled all pre-draft visits for draft prospects. Teams such as the Broncos, Eagles, and Steelers have told most of their staff to work from home. Carolina did the same, but General Manager, Marty Hurney attended Oregon’s pro day on Thursday.
The draft is scheduled to take place in Las Vegas from April 23rd-April 25th. Last year in Nashville, over 600,000 were at the draft between all three days. Some states have put a cap on the number of people allowed at events. If the virus continues to spread as it is now, there is no way that the draft can occur in front of thousands of people, let alone hundreds. I spoke to a close friend who lives in Henderson, Nevada, just minutes away from the strip and he said, “it’ll likely be canceled altogether.” In addition to this, he stated it was the “..largest event in Vegas history and now it’s all falling apart.” So, how would the draft take place if the league decided to not have viewers in person?
One way they could do it is still have Goodell with Vegas in the background announcing picks at a podium and having players called for their interviews. Another is having Goodell in the league office and announcing picks from there. While all this would be happening, I would think there would be more in-depth videos from all the locations of teams. Obviously, this isn’t the most entertaining, but at this point, we have to take any precautions.
This will drastically affect the team’s strategies. A couple of teams have already postponed their draft visits for prospects. With this, the teams will have to rely on tape of the players more than ever before. Because of this, there is a chance of players with drastic health concerns, namely Tua Tagovailoa, falling due to the organizations not being able to bring the players in for their own evaluation of injuries.
Overall, the league has to think fast about what to do. Next week, hundreds of players will be on different teams and will need a physical to sign with said team. The draft will be more of a guessing game than ever before. There could be more busts because of a lack of research in the following six weeks. It will definitely be an interesting month.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images