NFL teams curtail or stop scouting; main owners meeting off
NFL teams are curtailing or completely stopping scouting operations as a safeguard against the spread of the new coronavirus.
The Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets are among those that have ordered their scouts and assistant coaches to return home in what typically is a busy time for evaluating college players. The NFL draft is scheduled for April 23-25 in Las Vegas.
Many teams have told employees to work remotely.
“Due to health and travel concerns surrounding COVID-19, we have informed all of our scouts and coaches that they must return to their home bases and travel will be suspended until further notice," Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement Thursday. "The health and safety of our staff and players is our number one priority and we feel that these are the necessary precautions given the current circumstances.”
Soon after, the Vikings announced a similar decision.
“... We are also suspending travel for our coaches and scouts until further notice and reviewing restrictions on large public gatherings in the near future," a team statement said. "These are uncertain times, and our priority is to protect the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and fans and do our part to minimize the spread of this virus.”
The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs have instructed all nonessential team personnel to work remotely for a minimum of 14 days beginning Monday. They also have suspended business travel and all nonessential travel for coaches and scouts.
The University of Michigan, Penn State, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M are among schools that called off or suspended pro days on Thursday. Other schools still plan to hold theirs — or make decisions pending developments.
NFL teams also are either limiting or eliminating facility visits by draft prospects. So are player agents.
“As an agent, it's my strong recommendation that my players don't travel for any team visits,” Mike McCartney tweeted. “With 12 or more games played, an All-Star game and Combine for most, teams have enough information to make an informed draft decision.”
NFL teams can bring in to their facilities for visits up to 30 players heading to the draft, though there are some exceptions for players from local schools.
The San Francisco 49ers are closing operations at Levi's Stadium and at their training facility until further notice. Public and private team events have also been canceled.
The Atlanta Falcons will close their training facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Monday “for an intense cleaning throughout the entire facility. Staff will be working remotely,” the team said.
Also Thursday, Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league's main annual meetings have been canceled. They were scheduled for March 29-April 1 in Palm Beach, Florida, and were to include owners voting on potential rules changes.
Instead, those major decisions will be made at the May 19-20 spring meetings in Marina del Rey, California.
But the NFL's business season will begin next Wednesday — as of now. That means the start of free agency and official trading. Of course, visits by free agents to team facilities figure to be limited if not nonexistent.
There's also the matter of players' union members voting on a new labor agreement that the owners approved last month. Some 2,500 members of the NFL Players Association face a deadline of 11:59 p.m. EDT on Saturday.
There has been little talk of postponing or canceling the draft, though staging it in Las Vegas seems a long shot. The NFL says it is monitoring the situation. Holding the draft without fans as a televised event in a studio or conference hall could be an option.
AP College Football Writer Eric Olson contributed to this report.