The committee, headed by New York Giants co-owner John Mara, was “unanimous and unequivocal” that the draft should not be pushed back, 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 wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “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. 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.”
Goodell also wrote that “public discussion of issues relating to the Draft serves no useful purpose and is grounds for disciplinary action.” Goodell and the league office were unwavering in their belief that the draft should be held as scheduled, even after a committee of general managers recommended to the NFL this week that it should be postponed. The GMs were concerned about disruptions to teams’ preparations for the draft because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. They also were troubled by competitive imbalances based on the fact that some teams had closed their facilities and others had not.
The league addressed that imbalance Tuesday by ordering all teams’ facilities closed starting Wednesday.
Los Angeles Rams General Manager Les Snead said earlier Thursday that he supported the draft being held as scheduled provided it is appropriate, given the national circumstances at the time.
“I’m all for the draft staying where it is as long as the state of the country is such that there is an appetite for it,” Snead said in a phone interview. “As long as it’s like it was for free agency, that will be fine.”
Denver Broncos executive John Elway told his team’s website earlier this week that he favored a delay but would abide by the league’s decision.
“Really, we feel pretty good about where we are,” Elway said. “We’d rather have it backed up so we can get all our scouts and everybody in, but if it’s limited and we can stay there and they're not going to move the draft, we’re in good shape.”
The NFL moved ahead with free agency last week. The CEC had favored a postponement of free agency, a person familiar with the situation said at the time. But the league and the NFL Players Association did not agree to such a delay.
The league previously decided to cancel the live event in Las Vegas associated with the draft, making it a TV-only event. It’s possible that it will be staged from the Los Angeles studios of the league-owned NFL Network or from the NFL’s offices in New York.
“Because of the unique circumstances in our country today, the 2020 Draft will obviously need to be conducted in a different way,” Goodell wrote in Thursday’s memo. “Already, we have cancelled all public events, we will not be bringing prospects and their families to the Draft, and the Draft itself will be conducted and televised in a way that reflects current conditions.”
Teams are doing their draft preparations by phone and electronic means. Teams have been prohibited from traveling to meet with players or attend pro-day workouts for scouts on college campuses. Draft-eligible players have been barred from traveling to meet with teams and undergo physicals. The usual follow-up physicals for players who had medical issues at last month’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis have been canceled.
“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,” Goodell wrote. “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.”
The league has delayed teams’ offseason programs for players indefinitely. Many within the league expect those programs to be canceled entirely. Some league leaders and owners are cautiously optimistic that the regular season will be mostly unaffected, but there are concerns about possible disruptions to teams’ training camps, scheduled to begin in late July.
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