NFC South News: Payton & Blank COVID-19's Impact on NFL
In the middle of March, Saints head coach Sean Payton became the first known member of the NFL to test positive for COVID-19. Since the announcement from Payton via Adam Schefter, the long standing head coach has been deemed 100% recovered from the virus but the affects of COVID-19 still haunt the NFL. After his own first-hand experience Payton sees April as perhaps the most challenging month to date.
“I think this month of April is going to be our most challenging. You’re listening to all the experts talk about it, and for this country, this is going to be an extremely difficult month, not just in New Orleans, but New York, California, Michigan, Washington. As we’re sitting here, just the rate this thing is accelerating is alarming. It’s unfathomable how quickly this thing can take a life of its own where there’s population.”
As the NFL draft approaches at the end of April, teams across the league are preparing for a "different" NFL draft. One that involves virtual war rooms via Skype or Zoom oppose to a physical room of up to 30 coaches, GMs and scouts ready to make a selection. It was reported earlier this month that team began pulling coaches off of scouting circuits and even cutting back air travel due to the virus. Thus forcing the hand of many teams to convert to a more "tech savvy" within the scouting process.
Falcons' Owner Arthur Blank spoke to Peter King on Monday about his thoughts on the upcoming season and how the virus could affect how the offseason moving into the regular season.
“I think the NFL’s going to be fine, I don’t mean it won’t be changed. It is being changed now. How it’ll impact things like training camp, sooner than that, the OTAs . . . Training camps will probably affected in some way. And of course, your point about the stadiums, with 50,000 to 70,000 people, whatever it may be. I think it’s just too early to tell. Of course we have to be able to provide a safe environment for fans. That’s the most critical thing.”
Blank added that he foresees the NFL's sixteen game regular season being played as normal however, can see a situation in which some games would not be played in front of fans. The Falcon's owner adds that his hope is that by September (Kick-off of the regular season) that the league is able to bring people together in some form or fashion.
“I do think we need football now. It’s hard to turn on any device you have today, almost any site, television, PCs, laptops, phones—without the first thing popping up being something on the virus. And that’s appropriate. However, I also think that people want a diversion. People want to be optimistic. People want to think about things that are really good times for themselves and their families and their loved ones and their communities. I think to have that kind of hope and aspiration mixed into your daily life is important.”
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