NFL Limits Team Facility Access As Virus Continues To Spread
All NFL facilities soon will be "closed to personnel -- with some limited exceptions -- in response to the coronavirus pandemic," according to Sam Farmer of the L.A. TIMES. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memo to teams yesterday "outlining the new rules put in place to ensure the league 'continues to conduct itself in a responsible way,' and that teams 'operate on a level playing field.'" Goodell said that the guidelines "take effect" at 6:00pm local time today, and that in two weeks, the league will "assess the advice from medical experts and public health authorities to determine if it’s safe and appropriate for the facilities to reopen." The facilities "will be closed, except in the case of" employees who are "providing ongoing medical treatment to players." Also exempt are employees (such as the director of facilities, security personnel or independent contractors) "necessary to maintain the physical security of the facility and its contents." Finally, employees (such as technology personnel) "necessary to maintain the security and operational capabilities of the club’s IT network" are exempt (L.A. TIMES, 3/25). ESPN’s Mike Tannenbaum said Goodell did the "responsible and the appropriate thing," as he "equaled the playing field” for teams ahead of next month's Draft (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 3/25).
DRAFT DATES STAYING PUT, FOR NOW: ESPN.com's Schefter & Russini cited sources as saying that the NFL "plans to stick with its original April 23-25 schedule for this year's draft despite a recommendation from the league's general manager subcommittee" to Goodell yesterday that it be "moved back due to the coronavirus pandemic" (ESPN.com, 3/24). Saints GM Mickey Loomis, who is on that GM subcommittee, said he personally was "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.” He said prepping for the Draft without access to the team's facilities would be "really difficult." Loomis: "Just the logistics of trying to conduct the draft and not having access to your draft rooms and your offices creates a lot of logistical problems. This is a not a fantasy draft that you conduct out there with just a list of things on a piece of paper” (“The Peter King Podcast,” 3/25).
TWO SIDES OF THE STORY: NBCSN’s Chris Simms said, “If I’m a GM or working in a front office, I’m mad. I want that draft delayed. ... You’re talking about making million-dollar investments into people, and now you’re not going to get a chance to meet some of those people and really figure out who they are” ("PFT," NBCSN, 3/25). But ESPN's Trey Wingo said, “I don’t want to hear the argument of it’s not the way we’ve done it before, because none of us are working in the way we’ve done it before.” Wingo: “Cry me a river on that one, general managers and scouts, because we’re all doing it differently. You guys need to find a way to do it differently” ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 3/25).
FUTURE PLANS: In Chicago, Dan Wiederer writes how the rest of the offseason will unfold is "anyone’s guess as of now." The league’s new year began on schedule last week, even "amid the nation’s turbulence." Free agency officially kicked off last Wednesday, and business has "proceeded accordingly on that front." But the "ongoing effects of the COVID-19 crisis have caused the league and its member clubs to remain flexible with how they respond and operate" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/25).