“Because of these circumstances, 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,” Goodell wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “We have reviewed this matter in the past few days with both the Competition Committee and [the owners’ labor committee], and this will confirm that Clubs will conduct their Draft operations remotely, with club personnel separately located in their homes.”
Goodell wrote in the memo that the NFL’s offices in New York and teams’ facilities will remain closed “indefinitely.” The league has suspended teams’ offseason programs for players indefinitely but opted to move forward with the draft over a recommendation by an advisory committee of GMs that it be postponed.
The NFL canceled the live event in Las Vegas at which the draft was to be staged but has proceeded with plans to conduct the three-day, seven-round draft as a TV-only event. The draft runs April 23-25.
The league had informed teams last week that it was considering two options — allowing teams back into their facilities for the draft if possible, or directing all teams to have their staffers work entirely from home during the draft. The NFL said then that teams’ plans to have an off-site draft headquarters, such as the New Orleans Saints setting up in a brewery, would be permitted only if teams were allowed back in their regular facilities.
“We have made this decision for several reasons,” Goodell wrote in Monday’s memo. “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. Our staff will carry out its responsibilities in the same way, operating in separate locations outside of our offices. And after consulting with medical advisers, 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 individual club employees may face.”
Teams’ draft preparations have been hindered by coaches, executives and scouts being barred from traveling to meet with players and watch on-campus pro-day workouts, and by players being prohibited from traveling to meet with teams and undergo physicals. Teams have been permitted to speak with players by phone or videoconferencing.
Coaches, GMs and scouts have been using similar methods to meet virtually for pre-draft planning.
“I have spoken to many of you in the past several days and recognize the challenges facing all of us,” Goodell wrote. “We are operating in an environment unlike anything we have experienced before, one that requires flexibility, patience, and cooperation. 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, health care 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.”