With the COVID-19 pandemic altering every facet of daily life, NFL teams have been forced to adjust while still preparing for April’s NFL draft.
The New Orleans Saints are setting up shop in a local establishment owned by the Benson family, Dixie Beer’s brewery, where the team is holding small draft meetings and plans to work during the draft with certain precautions, head coach Sean Payton said during a Wednesday conference call. Among the precautions: Each staff member will have his or her temperature taken before entering, and only six or seven members will be in the large room, spread out from each other practicing social distancing. The rest of the staff will call in to participate.
Payton also provided an update on his own health during Wednesday’s conference call. Payton announced last week he was cleared of COVID-19.
“I am doing well,” he said. “I am past two weeks removed (from COVID-19 diagnosis). I have been cleared for six days.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced last week in a memo sent to all 32 teams the draft will go on as scheduled from April 23-25. Goodell held a meeting with the NFL Management Commissioner’s Executive Committee and said the decision to proceed was “unanimous and unequivocal.”
“Our staff is certainly mindful of the operational issues this presents, and our top priority is putting in place procedures that allow all clubs to operate on a level playing field so that the draft is conducted in a way that is competitively fair to all clubs. All clubs should now be doing the necessary planning to conduct draft operations in a location outside of your facility, with a limited number of people present, and with sufficient technology resources to allow you to communicate internally, with other clubs, and with draft headquarters.”
Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s executive vice president of club business and league events, indicated during a Tuesday conference call that team executives would make their draft selections from remote locations — not team facilities — and would be required to abide by social distancing guidelines and allow no more than 10 people in a room, all separated by at least six feet each.
All NFL-related physicals were indefinitely suspended last month, and the league has halted all pre-draft visits to team facilities, which has prompted teams like the Saints to use FaceTime and other virtual methods to visit with prospective prospects.