The NFL Draft will proceed as scheduled April 23-25.
Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memorandum Thursday evening to team owners, lead executives, general managers and head coaches informing them that the event will not be delayed because of concerns about the growing coronavirus pandemic.
The NFL Management Council’s Executive Committee was “unanimous and unequivocal that the draft should go forward as scheduled,” Goodell wrote. “Apart from the CEC, I have personally discussed this matter with many other owners, club executives and coaches, and there is widespread support for the CEC’s conclusion.”
Goodell acknowledged the deep concerns around the world about the COVID-19 pandemic but said holding the draft on schedule is a sensible move. This despite reports that the NFL’s general managers advisory committee was in favor of delaying the draft, in large part because teams are no longer able to visit with players or perform medical examinations due to the closure of all NFL facilities.
“Everyone recognizes that 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, a copy of which was obtained by Newsday. “I also believe that the draft can serve a very positive purpose for our clubs, our fans, and the country at large, and many of you have agreed.”
The league has canceled public events associated with the draft, which was to be held in Las Vegas for the first time. It is expected that Goodell will announce the picks in a television studio, and that players will be available to be interviewed remotely.
“The draft itself will be conducted and televised in a way that reflects current conditions,” Goodell wrote. “Our staff is certainly mindful of the operational issues this presents, and our top priority is putting in place procedures that allow all clubs to operate on a level playing field so that the draft is conducted in a way that is competitively fair to all clubs. All clubs should now be doing the necessary planning to conduct draft operations in a location outside of your facility, with a limited number of people present, and with sufficient technology resources to allow you to communicate internally, with other clubs, and with draft headquarters. Needless to say, we will be prepared to adjust to changed circumstances in the next several weeks, including the prospect of clubs being able to resume even limited operations within their facilities.”
Goodell expressed optimism that the draft, despite its logistical issues, can be a success.
“We are confident that if we work collaboratively, we can implement procedures that will make the draft an event that works competitively and for our fans,” he wrote.
Goodell also issued a stern warning to any team owners, executives, GMs or coaches about publicly criticizing plans surrounding the draft.
“The CEC was also clear, and I share the Committee’s view, that public discussion of issues relating to the draft serves no useful purpose and is grounds for disciplinary action,” he said. “We look forward to working with each of you to make the 2020 Draft an event that will make everyone proud and help build excitement for the coming season.”