The NFL draft will be unusual this season, for everyone.
For players, they won’t get to walk on stage and share a bro hug with Roger Goodell due to coronavirus restrictions. For many fans, attending the draft live is out. Viewers on TV will see a much more scaled-back event, presumably with everyone involved in isolation on FaceTime or Skype.
It will be a lot different for teams too. They’re already complaining about lack of predraft visits from prospects. And the draft rooms themselves will be odd, as New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton explained.
Saints will practice social distancing during draft
The Saints could have some team personnel at Dixie Brewing Company in New Orleans, Payton said via Mike Triplett of ESPN. Saints owner Gayle Benson also owns Dixie, which started brewing in a massive new facility in New Orleans in November. Team facilities were recently ruled off limits by the NFL for now. Only six or seven people will be spread out across the Saints draft room to follow CDC guidelines, Payton said. So no high-fives in the room when the Saints land that cornerback they want.
Payton also quipped that nobody wants to sit near him. Payton tested positive for COVID-19, the first coach or player in the NFL to test positive. He has since been cleared.
Payton said the team started draft meetings on Wednesday, with scouts and position coaches teleconferencing in, with some spread out at a large meeting room at the Dixie Brewing Company, via Triplett.
This draft will truly be unlike any other.
Teams preparing for where, how to draft
Part of the draft preparation for teams this season is preparing how to conduct the draft, which is a first.
For example, Broncos general manager John Elway said the team is preparing for all possibilities for draft week.
“We don’t know if we’re going to be back in our complex by the time the draft comes around,” Elway said, according to the team’s transcript. “We’re in the process now of making those preparations if we’re not able to get back into our complex and how we go about that. I actually feel pretty good about where we are. With the draft staying where it is, it is fine. We’ll just move ahead and deal with the hand we’re dealt.”
Elway said the team is planning to interview prospects over the phone or on Zoom, to take the place of the 30 official visits a team is allowed.
All teams are dealing with the same challenges, which is likely a reason Goodell informed teams that he would not tolerate public criticism of keeping the draft on April 23-25. The draft will be unusual, but teams will get creative to get through it.
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