With the coronavirus outbreak impacting sports around the globe, the NFL and its teams are taking precautions as well.
Multiple teams are restricting travel for coaches and scouts due to the quick spread of the virus around the country. Washington suspended travel for its coaches and scouts travel until further notice, and other teams like the Chiefs, Bills and Jaguars followed suit. Many other teams, including the Broncos, Falcons, Lions and Eagles, asked or encouraged team employees to work from home.
Here's the latest on the impact of the coronavirus around the NFL from the MMQB staff:
Albert Breer: The Buccaneers are also suspending travel for coaches and scouts. Meanwhile, the Ravens' coaches are not on the road at this time of the year, and the team's scouts are driving to pro days rather than flying.
Conor Orr: One collegiate coach with experience in the NFL said that the uncertainty feels similar to the lockout year when coaches were barred from having access to players. There is a sense that some coaches have a contingency plan in place and are using their time wisely, while others may struggle to get on top of the chaos.
Browns coaches were told that air travel would be limited and any trips would require approval from general manager Andrew Berry moving forward. Coaches are optimistic about their ability to review tape and also contact people close to desired prospects in order to gain information in lieu of in-person scouting.
"We are taking the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our staff, including the reduction of travel by air for our scouting and coaching staff. It’s too early for us to determine the prudent approach to free agent and draft prospect visits. Obviously, the situation is fluid and we will continue to monitor and heed the advice of our medical staff and public officials as circumstances evolve," a Browns spokesperson said.
Kalyn Kahler: Up until Thursday morning, the usual amount of scouts were still on the road traveling to pro days, but many questioned why they were still out there, risking their health, and the health of their families that they will be returning home to sporadically throughout the next few weeks after they have traveled extensively. Many stopped shaking hands with prospects at workouts, giving elbow bumps instead. "Everyone is very aware of sneezes," said another scout on the road.
Some scouts are holed up in their hotel rooms instead of doing work from coffee shops on the road.
I was on the phone with a scout today who is on the road for pro days, and was in the middle of pumping gas as we spoke. He was careful to use a double dose of hand sanitizer to clean his hands after touching the gas pump.
"Things about to happen sooner rather than later," said the scout pumping gas. After we hung up the phone, the Washington football team and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers became the first teams to officially pull their scouts and coaches from the road because of COVID-19.
One source tells me the Packers have had discussions, but no mandates yet. The source described it as a fluid situation.
Regarding the Broncos, I have heard no out of the country travel from one source, and another source said it was business as usual. Scouts were still flying domestically as of this morning.
Columbia's Pro Day was scheduled Thursday, but was called off as part of the Ivy League canceling all spring athletic activity. Many players who would have worked out at the New York City Pro Day will be going to Rutgers, which is scheduled for March 13 instead.
Georgia Southern, Portland State, Rutgers and Michigan's Pro Days were scheduled for Friday. The Wolverines announced the cancelation of their event, while the Scarlet Knights postponed theirs and plans to reschedule it.
A Georgia Southern spokesperson told SI that, "We are operating as normal until notified differently. The University is still open as usual." Portland State is still on, as of now. Coaches are checking with scouts to see if they are deciding whether or not to come, so the status could change.
Jenny Vrentas: NFL agent Erik Burkhardt said he learned midday Thursday that teams were beginning to cancel Top 30 visits, in which each club is allowed to invite 30 prospects to their facility for a pre-draft visit. Mike McCartney, another NFL agent, posted on Twitter that "it's my strong recommendation" that the players he represents don't travel for any team visits. "With 12 or more games played, an All-Star game and Combine for most, teams have enough information to make an informed draft decision," he wrote.
The NFL has not announced any plans to move back the start of the league year, which is slated to begin on Wednesday, May 18. However, one high-ranking team source said he believes that possibility is still under discussion. The start of free agency includes players making visits to teams and taking physicals, which could be affected.
Around the NFL:
- All NFL staffers except for "operationally critical staff" will work from home until further notice beginning Friday “out of an abundance of caution and with the health and safety of our communities as our foremost priority." (Ian Rapoport, NFL Network)
- The NFL's annual meeting scheduled for March 29-April 1 has been canceled. (League announcement)