Just A Minute: Did the NFL Make the Right Decision to go Ahead With Free Agency?

Christopher Walsh

This is a video-commentary on if the NFL made the right decision regarding going ahead with free agency and not delaying the 2020 NFL Draft, which is now less than a month away.

There's no easy answer. 

However, here are some of the changes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, after discussions with NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and consultations between the medical teams for the NFL and NFLPA, announced on March 16:

Off-Season Programs

The parties will continue to follow the guidance of medical and public health professionals, including their respective medical advisors. As a result, Off-Season Team Activities will not commence on April 6 for teams with new head coaches and April 20 for all other clubs. The parties will periodically meet and reassess the public health situation to determine an appropriate start date for any offseason team activities and other related considerations as this situation develops.

Over the course of the next several weeks, NFLPA Medical Director Dr. Thom Mayer and NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills—in consultation with the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network (DICON), and other league and NFLPA advisors on infectious disease control—will develop a standard set of protocols for clubs to implement regarding facility cleaning and maintenance, equipment preparation, steps to identify player and staff who may be at elevated risk, and other preventive measures.

Free Agent Travel and Medical Procedures

During the free agency period, NFL clubs may not bring any free agent player to a club facility or other location to meet with club personnel. Further, club personnel, including members of the club medical staff, may not travel to any location to meet with or conduct a medical examination of a free agent player.​

The NFL and NFLPA are developing protocols that will provide clubs with opportunities to review a free agent player's medical records from his prior club(s) and to arrange for a free agent player to have a medical exam in the player's home city or at another nearby location. These steps are consistent with those announced last Friday for club contact with draft-eligible college players.

Access to Club Facilities

As a further step to address issues relating to coronavirus (COVID-19), NFL clubs will close their facilities to players, other than those undergoing medically-supervised rehabilitation and treatment, for the next two weeks.

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said: "It is our responsibility to work together and protect the health, safety and well being of everyone in our business. Nonetheless, public safety is paramount during this national emergency and we will continue to work with the NFL, medical experts and seek guidance from federal agencies to adjust our business practices accordingly."

Commissioner Goodell said: "Based on the most recent guidance provided by leading health officials, and in consultation with the NFLPA and both our and the union's medical advisors, we believe this is the appropriate way to protect the health of our players, staff, and our communities. We will continue to make decisions based on the best advice from medical and public health experts and will be prepared to make further modifications as needed."

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