Sean Payton stands by brewery draft plan as NFL warns of possible ‘totally remote’ requirement

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Three weeks before the NFL draft, there’s still some confusion among teams about what they will and won’t be allowed to do during the draft given COVID-19-related restrictions.

The NFL can’t have all the answers because things are changing day-to-day, but the league let teams know it’s still possible they’d have to be “totally remote” during the draft.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

In a memo, which was first reported by ESPN’s Dianna Russini, the league offered guidance on what the options are.

NFL sends memo discussing draft protocols

The NFL sent a memo about what teams can expect during the April 23-25 draft, in terms of gathering. It was obtained by ESPN’s Dianna Russini:

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The NFL said that teams could be allowed to use the club facility if it is “safe and legally compliant,” and if that’s the case, teams could decide to use their facility or an off-site location for the draft.

But the other option was conducting the draft remotely, from personal residences “with a clear prohibition on any number of club personnel gathering in one residence.” Everyone would be in their own homes. The NFL said it will decide on teams’ options before the draft.

Sean Payton defends Saints plan for war room at brewery

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said Wednesday his team planned to use the Dixie Brewing Company in New Orleans, with a limited number of coaches and scouts on hand using social distancing measures.

While some thought that plan wasn’t necessarily the safest amid a global pandemic, especially after Payton had previously tested positive for the coronavirus, the coach defended the decision on Thursday afternoon.

“We might have the safest setup in the league for these meetings,” Payton texted USA Today. “Remote location. Nobody here!”

Payton insisted that there would only be four people at most in the room, including general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant general manager Jeff Ireland, and that they would practice social distancing.

Others, he said, would be included remotely.

“More importantly, the four of us in this room (are) all alone at home,” Payton texted USA Today. “Temperatures taken prior to entering room. Each day … cleaning and sterilized.”

Should the NFL require teams to draft remotely from personal residences, the Saints’ brewery get-together would be scrapped.

During the 2019 NFL draft, then-Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, left, and team principals Charlotte Jones Anderson, owner Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones, right, discuss plans. (Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
During the 2019 NFL draft, then-Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, left, and team principals Charlotte Jones Anderson, owner Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones, right, discuss plans. (Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

This draft will be unusual for teams

NFL teams are used to a routine. It’s why there was tone-deaf complaining to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to move the draft back, a move Goodell resisted. Teams are not happy they won’t get their normal pro days, pre-draft visits and workouts.

So imagine if teams have to discuss draft plans while on a video call. It’s far out of their comfort zone. In normal years, teams have a draft room with key coaches, scouts and front-office members. Every team would be in the same boat this year if the NFL decides teams must all be remote with no gatherings during the draft, but it would still be a challenge.

The draft will be different, and with less than a month to go the NFL is unsure what exactly it will be like for teams.

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