It’s been a little quiet around the NFL since it’s the offseason. Nonetheless, the coronavirus could still greatly affect the league.
March 11, 2020; the day the sports world came to a halt. March 12, 2020; the day the sports world crumbled.
In the last few days, we’ve witnessed the coronavirus outbreak lead to the suspension of the NBA, the NHL, and the MLS, the cancellation of the college basketball men’s and women’s tournaments, the cancellation of all winter and spring championships in college sports, and the delaying of the 2020 MLB regular season.
The NFL has been a bit quieter about all this since it’s the offseason. Regardless, the outbreak can only get worse before it gets better, and the NFL could be heavily affected by this just like any other league.
What we know now
A big concern amid the outbreak, in general, is travel. Taking the time to travel is a risky act when you consider the potential spreading of the disease, and the NFL realizes and understands that. Thus, teams have canceled their pre-draft visits with prospective athletes.
So any meeting between soon-to-be pros and some NFL teams? Not happening, at least according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.
Teams are canceling visits, yes. The league has not. Decisions are being made by individual clubs. Only some have begun canceling. https://t.co/3ViDO5ZvIt
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 12, 2020
That means any player who was hoping to blow specific teams away in pre-draft interviews is officially out of luck. It’s bad timing, but it’s just what needs to be done in these sad and unfortunate times.
Many teams have additionally pulled their coaches and scouts off the road, as many of them were attending pro days for prospects. The Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the initial teams to put the foot down and make this decision. Numerous ballclubs followed suit, including the two local teams — New York Giants and New York Jets.
Organizations have also either shut down or are considering a shut down of their facilities, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Multiple NFL teams are discussing shutting down their training facilities due to the Coronavirus, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2020
The virus outbreak has additionally led to the NFL canceling its annual league meeting from March 29-April 1. Anything that was planned to be discussed at the meeting will be addressed at the spring meeting, which is scheduled for May 19-20
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) March 12, 2020
What about the CBA vote? Well, that’s still due by the end of the day on Saturday (11:59:59 p.m. ET). Players have until then to vote on the new proposal, which includes a 17-game schedule along with a new playoff format that would encompass seven teams in each conference instead of the usual six.
And lastly, the NFL’s new league year is to go on as planned. The start date will be March 18 at 4:00 p.m. ET, with the free agency period commencing at the exact same time.
What could this mean for draft prospects?
Could you imagine struggling at the NFL Scouting Combine, and when you’re looking forward to redeeming yourself at your pro day along with different teams’ pre-draft interviews and visits, everything is canceled?
Well, that’s exactly what’s happening with plenty of individuals entering the NFL Draft.
Now, some teams must evaluate players on the film, what they were able to do at the combine, and not much else. Possessing the opportunity to meet these guys face-to-face is out the window. They won’t be able to find out the true type of person a great player is behind the pads.
It’s unfortunate, but it’s life. Sometimes it isn’t fair.
What could this mean for the NFL Draft?
This is a big discussion right now and will continue to be as time progresses, being that the NFL Draft isn’t that far away. The NBA and MLS set the standard by suspending activities for at least 30 days. That means other leagues will want to be as cautious if not more cautious about their upcoming events.
Thirty days from Wednesday and Thursday (when the NBA and MLS took action) is April 10 and 11, respectively. The Draft commences on April 23 and lasts until April 25. Whether everything is back to normal by then cannot possibly be predicted, but don’t expect it to be all sunshine and rainbows.
Travel is crucial for the event. The prospects, personnel for each organization, and fans will be making the trip to Las Vegas. With that said, the NFL must take action and do it soon. Whether that’s pushing back the entire event or altering its style. The latter option could include not doing it way in which people are in physical contact with one another.
All in all, don’t expect the NFL Draft to go on as originally planned. There should and will be at least a few changes, some of which may be drastic.
It sounds crazy, but again, it’s just what needs to be done in order for the safety of everyone involved.
What could this mean for the 2020 NFL season?
Well right now, the league, its fans, its writers, its employees, and basically everyone that is involved with pro football is optimistic that the 2020 season will fully occur. Training camps are still over four months away and the regular season is around six months away.
But who’s to say this outbreak won’t become worse? Who’s to say all these cancellations and suspensions won’t prevent the complete spreading of this extremely harmful disease?
Four-six months isn’t a significantly long time period, and when you think about how quickly COVID-19 has spread, it’s scary to think about what things could be like by the end of the summer.
If this outbreak isn’t wiped out or at least suppressed in a month or two, start to become worried if you’re an NFL fan.
Right now, there’s the large possibility that offseason workout programs and rookie minicamps will be canceled. And that may just be the beginning. What if the start of training camps is delayed? What if the preseason and regular-season schedules are affected?
As a whole, this outbreak may lead to a drastic domino effect for the league.
People say it could take months to clean up this mess. If that’s the case, expect the NFL to make some changes to how the 2020 campaign takes place.