NFL Doctor: Broad Testing Needed For League To Reopen
NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills said that "widespread testing would have to be available before the reopening of the league could be contemplated," according to Judy Battista of NFL.com. Sills "cautioned against assuming that earlier comments from league officials about the league's focus on starting the season on time mean it will definitely happen." He said, "That's everyone's hope, that we are in a position to do that. But the reality is none of us know those facts for certain right now." Sills added that the "widespread availability of point of care testing -- where a test could be administered, and the results returned quickly -- will be critical to decisions about when teams can report to facilities." Those tests are not currently available, but Sills said that he is "confident they eventually will be, but he can't say when." Sills warned that it is "too early to say how large groups of fans would be handled until a vaccine is available" (NFL.com, 4/3).
PLAYING A DELICATE GAME: SI.com’s Albert Breer wrote the NFL “has partners, sponsors and advertisers to worry about,” and NFL Exec VP and General Counsel Jeff Pash on Tuesday was speaking to them when he "painted perhaps the most optimistic picture of the COVID-19 pandemic that any of us have seen anywhere in weeks." The idea “matches up perfectly with the decision to go forward with the new league year … and the forceful nature with which they’re pushing ahead with the draft.” However, Breer wrote, “Someone, anyone, at some point, should’ve raised their hand and asked the same question that could’ve saved the NFL a lot of trouble over the last decade, in countless scandals that made pro football look like a ruthless circus: Are we doing the right thing?” (SI.com, 4/1). In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote, “The NFL might indeed be able to release its schedule on May 9, but to talk about it right now is just tone-deaf” (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 4/1).
NO REASON NOT TO GO AHEAD: ESPN's Mike Greenberg said he has heard "many people be critical of the NFL for holding the draft at all in three weeks, and I don't really understand that criticism." He said, "If we thought that three weeks later everything would be different, then that would be one thing. But I don't know there's any reason to believe that. ... I don't think, aside from all of the fans that would normally be there, it will really be that different than any other year” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 4/2). In Detroit, John Niyo wrote the NFL “wants everyone to know it’s indispensable.” Niyo: “Maybe it is. Maybe that’s OK, too, as the NFL’s offseason provides a much-needed diversion for sports fans, filling in a landscape that’s just tumbleweeds otherwise. … Maybe this is simply the NFL’s way of projecting confidence in a time of overwhelming uncertainty, trying to reassure fans and business partners -- sponsors, advertisers, TV networks, and so on -- that everything will be fine” (DETROIT NEWS, 4/2). In Pittsburgh, Tim Benz wrote he has “zero problem with the draft progressing as scheduled.” Benz: “We’re all supposed to stay inside our houses these days anyway. What keeps people inside their homes to sit on their butts and watch television more effectively than the NFL Draft?” (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/2).
JUST NOT THE RIGHT TIME: In N.Y., Paul Schwartz wrote this is “no time for full-steam ahead, no time to steadfastly hold” the draft as normal. He notes it is “not appropriate” under the current state of affairs and writes, “Postpone it. Move it back. There is no reason the NFL draft cannot be a month later, in mid-or-late May” (N.Y. POST, 4/2). The AP's Tim Dahlberg wrote, "It’s not a time to celebrate anything, especially a No. 1 draft pick. The draft can wait" (AP, 4/2).