The NFL is in a weird place because of the coronavirus. Like most of us in our daily lives, they are trying to figure out what they can do to keep going while also recognizing we are far away from resuming regular activities.
There are, of course, no face-to-face practices or training opportunities currently underway, as there normally would be this time of year.
The other day, the league announced that teams could conduct virtual training activities after an agreement was reached by the league and the players’ union. It consists of online learning, virtual meetings, and physical training that players can do from home.
The big event coming up later this month is the NFL Draft. It’s going to be conducted virtually, though they have not released much information about how that will happen. Presumably it will be like one giant Zoom meeting with lots of participants.
It’s good news that the draft is still happening. It at least allows the teams to acquire new players, and it allows players coming out of college to continue their playing careers. It’s good news for fans because it allows us to experience something related to an actual sporting event. Presumably, it’s also good for the networks and advertisers who will earn revenue.
However, it’s fair to wonder how and why this draft will be different, aside from the manner in which it will be televised, in addition to having no live audience present to cheer for their favorite teams and players.
Needless to say, the players themselves won’t get to experience the thrill of walking across the stage as their names are called, at least for those who would have been there in person.
But since teams would normally be interviewing players in person, not to mention working them out in person and performing medical checks in the weeks leading up to the draft, it does make you wonder if teams will feel as confident about their choices given that it may be months before they can actually do these things, at which time it will more or less be too late.
The reality is that we don’t know if there will be an NFL season this fall. It’s certainly plausible there won’t be.
Will these drafted players still be under contract to play a season a year or more after being drafted? One positive is that there will be plenty of work for attorneys, agents and others as they negotiate exactly what these contracts will look like.
Postponing the draft until the start of a season is more imminent and is surely something that was considered. According to ESPN writer Kevin Seifert, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said they decided they wanted people to have a reason to believe there will be an NFL season to look forward to, even if we don’t know when it will begin.
For now, the best we can hope for is that social distancing guidelines are lifted this summer, allowing football operations to resume again in time for a regular season in the fall. That’s not to say that we lift the current guidelines in order to return to sports. We lift the guidelines when it is safe to do so, allowing all of us to return to some semblance of our previous lives. Then and only then, sports, like so many other things, will be able to move forward in the way that all of us are accustomed to.