NFL Offices Closed, Draft Show Goes on as Scheduled, April 23-25

Howard Balzer

In these uncertain times, the National Football League has had to make decisions on the fly regarding the procedures to be followed in the offseason.

The latest was closing team offices save for certain personnel as of 6 p.m. Arizona time Wednesday. That was prompted by inconsistency throughout the league with some states issuing “stay at home” orders, meaning those personnel executives involved in the preparations for the April 23-25 draft are not able to gather together.

Some league general managers, including Denver Broncos' John Elway, wanted the draft delayed. But to when? The decision to close the offices will be reassessed on April 8, but no one knows where things will stand then. In reality, very little might change by mid-April, or early May, or, of course, even later than that.

In a very fluid situation, the league is considering how best to have its teams communicate with players if all offseason programs are canceled. There are playbooks to learn for teams with new head coaches or new coordinators. Not to mention the hundreds of veteran players headed to new teams along with the 255 players that will be drafted — plus undrafted free agents signed.

The delaying of the draft would subsequently halt incoming rookies having any sort of impactful learning and understanding done in time for training camps, should they even begin on time.

The league made the only logical decision it could by holding the draft as scheduled. After that, they will go forward hoping that the league’s centennial season can even be played.

The following is the memo commissioner Roger Goodell sent to all the teams this week:

“Over the past week, every NFL club has suspended normal business operations in response to the advice of medical experts and public health authorities. Last week, we agreed with the NFLPA to close all facilities to players other than those receiving medical treatment and rehabilitation. In the succeeding days, clubs took further steps to respond to current conditions and directed all but a limited number of staff to work remotely. In part, these changes were prompted by state or local government orders to ‘stay at home’ but in many other cases, clubs changed their practices to contribute to the national effort to employ remote work options as an essential element to reducing the rate of transmission of the COVID-19 virus and the risk of exposure.

“To ensure that all clubs operate on a level playing field, and that the NFL continues to conduct itself in a responsible way at this time, it is appropriate to outline certain principles that will apply during the current period. These principles have been reviewed with and endorsed by the Competition Committee and will remain in effect until further notice.

“All club facilities will remain closed to all personnel, subject to the following exceptions.

  • "Employees (such as athletic trainers or physicians) who are providing ongoing medical treatment to players.
  • "Employees (such as the director of facilities, security personnel or independent contractors) necessary to maintain the physical security of the facility and its contents.
  • "Employees (such as technology personnel) necessary to maintain the security and operational capabilities of the club's IT network to enable remote work by club football and business staff.

“These guidelines will take effect at 6 p.m. local time tomorrow, March 25. In two weeks, on April 8, we will assess the advice from medical experts and public health authorities to determine whether it is safe and appropriate for facilities to reopen or to extend the period of closure. During this time, clubs are free to conduct all normal business operations, including signing players, evaluating draft-eligible prospects, selling tickets, and other activities to prepare for the 2020 season.

“The challenges we face are not unique — many businesses and individuals throughout the country are experiencing and addressing similar issues. Please be assured that the NFL is well positioned to meet these operational challenges as we prepare to offer our fans and the country an outstanding 2020 NFL season."

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