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NFL to stage “fully virtual” Draft amid Covid-19 shutdown

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The 2020 National Football League Draft will be conducted in a virtual format, with team executives all working from their respective homes, as opposed to club facilities.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell outlined the procedures for the “fully virtual” April 23-25 Draft in a memo sent to the 32 teams. Club personnel will be allowed to communicate with each other and Draft headquarters by phone or internet.

“We have made this decision for several reasons,” Goodell said in a statement. “All clubs will not have access to their facilities, which is contrary to the fundamental equity principle that all clubs operate in a consistent and fair way. Moreover, we want all NFL personnel to comply with government directives and to model safe and appropriate health practices…

“And after consulting with medical advisors, we cannot identify an alternative that is preferable from a medical or public health perspective, given the varying needs of clubs, the need properly to screen participants, and the unique risk factors that individual club employees may face,” Goodell said.

In mid-March, it was announced that the 2020 NFL Draft would go ahead, but all planned public elements in Las Vegas would be canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Las Vegas Draft was scheduled to include a stage on the water in front of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino fountains, with players being brought to the dais by boat for an official red carpet event. The plan also involved closing portions of the Las Vegas Strip to traffic for the three days of the Draft and constructing the main stage next to Caesars Forum.

The three-day event was due to free to the public and include the NFL Draft Experience, which would have featured games, autograph sessions, a pro shop, and special performances. At least 400,000 fans were expected to attend the festivities, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

It has already been announced that future NFL Drafts will be held in Cleveland (2021) and Kansas City (2023), opening the door for the event to be held in Las Vegas in 2022.

“We are operating in an environment unlike anything we have experienced before, one that requires flexibility, patience, and cooperation,” Goodell said. “As we work through those challenges together we should not lose sight of the magnitude of this global health crisis.”

According to NBC Sports, there is growing momentum for ESPN and NFL Network to produce a combined Draft telecast. It will likely be based from ESPN’s main studio in Bristol, Connecticut, with NFL Network talent either co-hosting or being major contributors to the coverage. ABC’s Draft coverage is poised to remain separate, the report added.

Elsewhere, the NFL is delaying the start of its offseason workout program, which was scheduled to begin on April 6, with players participating in conditioning drills and light workouts. In the meantime, teams are allowed to provide players with playbooks and video on digital devices for use in isolation.