The NFL is taking the idea of working from home to an entirely different level.
On Monday afternoon, the league notified its teams that this year’s draft — which will be held from April 23-25 — will take place virtually. That way, general managers and head coaches will make their selections from home on draft night to follow social-distancing policies.
The tweak to proceedings is in light of the continuing spread of coronavirus, which has turned the draft from a public event expected to draw over 1 million fans in Las Vegas, to a glorified teleconference.
“In response to developing conditions and the advice of medical and public health experts, authorities at all levels of government have expanded the scope and extended the duration of orders requiring residents to shelter-in-place,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released in a statement. “These orders now cover the vast majority of residents and include every NFL home community.
“In some locations, these orders extend as far as June, and we should expect that this trend will continue.”
Goodell’s league had remained largely unscathed despite the COVID-19 outbreak wreaking havoc throughout the United States.
Much of it had to in part of the league being in the early portion of its offseason — it’s only been two months since the Kansas City Chiefs reigned supreme in Super Bowl XLIV.
Across other notable professional sporting leagues, Major League Baseball was forced to push back its Opening Day indefinitely while the NHL and NBA put their seasons on hold.
The NFL was the only major North American sports organization generating any sort of athletic news not regarding cancellations or postponements. With the new league year starting on March 18, the league experienced one of its most popular, successful, and exhilarating free-agency and transactional periods despite league offices closing on March 13 and team facilities on March 26.
Despite the number of positive coronavirus cases rising in the United States, the league remained steadfast in keeping the draft scheduled to begin on April 23.
On March 22, it was reported that the draft would be held in a studio setting but told teams to expect the full draft experience — meaning the head coach, general manager and team decision-makers would crowd into their usual “war rooms” to execute selections.
“Given current and expected conditions, and to ensure that we operate responsibly and in full compliance with current regulations, both League and Club facilities will remain closed indefinitely,” Goodell said. “Clubs have been advised to prepare to conduct the 2020 Draft entirely outside of their facilities and in a fully virtual format, with club personnel in separate locations and able to communicate with one another and Draft headquarters by phone or internet.”
It might not provide the same sort of pomp and circumstance as what has now become expected from the draft, but the decision finally suggests the NFL is taking the pandemic seriously.