NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks ahead of the first round...

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks ahead of the first round at the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.  Credit: AP/Steve Helber

The NFL will hold an entirely “virtual draft” on April 23-25, as commissioner Roger Goodell informed clubs Monday that all team and league personnel will observe current “stay-at-home” orders affecting most of the nation’s residents because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Clubs have been advised to prepare to conduct the 2020 Draft entirely outside of their facilities in a fully virtual format, with club personnel in separate locations and able to communicate with one another by phone or internet,” according to the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Newsday.

Goodell reiterated that NFL facilities will remain closed indefinitely and will be reopened “when it is safe to do so based on medical and public health advice, and in compliance with government mandates.”

Teams previously were permitted to gather in small groups at their facilities if they had been allowed to do so by local authorities. But with the increased number of “shelter-in-place” directives in recent days, the NFL decided to have all teams keep their personnel at home. The league also wanted to avoid any competitive advantage for the teams that might have been permitted to gather in their facilities.

“We have reviewed this matter in the past few days with both the Competition Committee and Management Council Executive Committee], and this will confirm that Clubs will conduct their Draft operations remotely, with club personnel separately located in their homes,” Goodell said. “All Clubs will not have access to their facilities, which is contrary to the fundamental equity principle that all clubs operate in a consistent and fair way. Moreover, we want all NFL personnel to comply with government directives and to model safe and appropriate health practices.”

Goodell said NFL staff will “carry out its responsibilities in the same way, operating in separate locations outside of our offices. And after consulting with medical advisors, we cannot identify an alternative that is preferable from a medical or public health perspective, given the varying needs of clubs, the need properly to screen participants, and the unique risk factors that club employees may face.”

He did not say where he will be during the draft, although it appears likely he will remain at home.

Goodell said several teams have been preparing for a virtual draft and expressed confidence that “all clubs can take the necessary steps to make the 2020 Draft a successful event.”

Goodell finished his memo by reflecting on the gravity of the deadly pandemic and saluting the hard work of those on the front lines battling the illness.

“We are operating in an environment unlike anything we have experienced before, one that requires flexibility, patience and cooperation,” he said. “As we work through those challenges together, we should not lose sight of the magnitude of this global health crisis, of the extraordinary work of first responders, healthcare workers and so many others, of the growing number of Americans in need of assistance, and of those who have lost family or friends to this virus.”

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