Although the NFL’s crown jewel of the offseason, the draft, will proceed as planned April 23-25, it will not happen in Las Vegas as originally scheduled, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
The Times cited two anonymous sources who said the draft will be run out of a television studio — not in Las Vegas — with expected live cut-ins from various team headquarters throughout the league.
It is the latest move by the NFL in reaction to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Details of a revised NFL draft presentation have not yet been revealed publicly, other than the league previously announcing it will still hold the draft on its scheduled dates — only with no fans present and with all public events canceled.
The report does not mention specifics on how the NFL would adjust any of its usual promotional efforts around the event, which normally include inviting approximately 20-30 top prospects to the host city for appearances and interviews. The players and family members attending the draft then become live storylines during the weekend, with the players walking onstage to shake hands with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upon being selected.
In an internal email sent to all NFL employees on Thursday, Goodell hinted that some changes were coming to this year’s event.
“Planning for the Draft is a good example of how we need to think differently, embrace technology and collaborate,” Goodell wrote. “We will also use the Draft to help support fans and those people impacted in our communities.”
With the coronavirus pandemic causing the suspension of virtually every professional, college and high school sports league in North America, the NFL’s initial offseason calendar has continued fairly unchanged thus far. The free agency period began on schedule this week, with the main limitations involving delays in some physical exams and official announcements because of current travel restrictions.
According to Pro Football Talk, a memo from NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills was reportedly sent to players via the NFL Players Association, recapping the steps that the league has taken over the past 10 days in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including plans to hold the draft without fans present.
Sills wrote, in part, “The NFL Draft will look different this year. The clubs’ selection of players will proceed as scheduled April 23-25. However, public events in Las Vegas are canceled. Fans can still follow the draft day excitement on TV, and the NFL is exploring innovative options for how the process will be conducted and will share that information as it becomes available.”
No NFL player is known to have tested positive for COVID-19, but Saints head coach Sean Payton did announce Thursday that he has the virus.
—Field Level Media