The NFL draft still is set to take place as scheduled later this month, but the annual event will feature some significant changes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memo Monday telling teams that the draft will be "fully virtual," with coaches, general managers and other team personnel operating separately from their own homes.
The league instructed teams in March to shut down their facilities but previously kept open the possibility that organizations might be able to have employees in the same place together, so long as they followed the Center for Disease Control guidelines on social distancing.
"We have made this decision for several reasons," Goodell said in Monday's statement. "All Clubs will not have access to their facilities, which is contrary to the fundamental equity principle that all clubs operate in a consistent and fair way. Moreover, we want all NFL personnel to comply with government directives and to model safe and appropriate health practices. ... And after consulting with medical advisors, we cannot identify an alternative that is preferable from a medical or public health perspective, given the varying needs of clubs, the need properly to screen participants, and the unique risk factors that individual club employees may face."
The mandate will force changes for the New Orleans Saints, who planned to have team personnel gather at Dixie Brewery. Saints coach Sean Payton, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 but said he had fully recovered, told USA TODAY Sports last week that the setup would be safe, with the team adhering to social distancing guidelines and taking temperatures prior to each day.
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