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Tracker: Coronavirus altering NFL offseason

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Italy Extends Emergency Measures Nationwide As Coronavirus Death Toll JumpsPhoto by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Free-agent recruiting and college scouting is at risk.

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is a growing global pandemic that now affects our daily life. Highly infectious, and dangerous to the sick and elderly, it has spread faster than our world was prepared, and the social impacts are now reaching our sports.

The Buffalo Bills announced on Thursday, March 12th that they are suspending the travel of coaches and scouts due to the coronavirus. Their staff was present at the Clemson Pro Day that day, but that will be the last trip they take in the near future.

The NBA has indefinitely cancelled all future games after one of their players tested positive for the coronavirus (and now a second player has tested positive), the NCAA basketball tournament is not allowing spectators, and the NHL is likely soon to follow. NFL football has been spared until now because the live games aren’t taking place, but the virus is starting to take its toll.

We will be tracking live updates relating to the NFL, its teams, and the Buffalo Bills in this story. Below, we’ll also have some perspective on how COVID-19 will change the next couple months of the offseason. If you need any information about the coronavirus, visit a trusted source like CDC.gov or your town/city/state government website.

We try to stay apolitical in our comments section. We should strive to keep the focus on how the virus affects the NFL, the Bills, and our community. Stay safe, protect your loved ones, and support each other. When in-person isolation is the best way to stem the tide, our amazing community of football fans can be your support network.

Kim & Terry Pegula pledge $1.2 million to aide those affected by coronavirus

Terry and Kim Pegula have announced at least $1.2 million in community aid to be provided to WNYers in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

>> https://t.co/u1WKv9M3m5 pic.twitter.com/vbqTPvLK4f

— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) March 25, 2020

NFL Draft still scheduled for late April, despite general managers’ concern

Despite objections from general managers, 2020 NFL Draft will proceed as scheduled (for now) https://t.co/dPgFGBcbdy

— Buffalo Rumblings (@BuffRumblings) March 25, 2020

Team facilities across the country closed to football-related personnel

NFL announces closure of all facilities around the country amid coronavirus concerns https://t.co/DrRImwMt36

— Buffalo Rumblings (@BuffRumblings) March 25, 2020

NFL Physicians halt physicals until “more appropriate time”

NFL doctors halting physicals until coronavirus concerns subside

This will impact free agent signings recovering from injuries or surgery and NFL Draft prospects who need medical re-checks https://t.co/PsBroVHpJY

— Buffalo Rumblings (@BuffRumblings) March 24, 2020

NFL makes Game Pass free for the foreseeable future

Game Pass is free! If you’re looking for a place to start, I wrote about 20 of my favorite football games over the past decade.

There are so many classics that didn’t make my list. Feel free to add your favorites in the thread so we can all share https://t.co/jQC125b5EO

— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) March 20, 2020

Saints head coach Sean Payton tests positive for COVID-19

Appreciate the well wishes. I'm feeling better and fortunate to not have any of the respiratory symptoms. 4 more days at home.#BEATCovid pic.twitter.com/vvjbnqoeZx

— Sean Payton (@SeanPayton) March 19, 2020

NFL alters rules for announcing signing before physicals are complete

The NFL just alerted teams that we're able to announce transactions if:

1) club & player have reached an agreement on the terms of the contract.

2) the written contract has been sent to the player & agent.

Buckle up. https://t.co/z4YNoyqYt4

— Tad Dickman (@TDickman89) March 19, 2020

NFL teams including contingency language in trades, contracts with physicals disrupted

NFL executives and coaches received a memo tonight, recommending clubs "should consider including contingency language in trade agreements to account for a scenario where a player is unable to take and pass a physical ..." because of special rules regarding COVID-19, per sources.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 18, 2020

Officially announcing a signing or trade is going to take some time

Also, don't expect a flood of official signing announcements at 4 p.m. tomorrow. The memo says teams may not announce a player has agreed to terms pending a physical -- only if they have executed a contract with the player.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 18, 2020

NFL says no visits to team facilities for physicals

NFL says no visits at team facilities. Teams cannot visit players. Teams and players can agree to a neutral physician exam or one close to the player. A player has the right to decline the exam. Teams have the right to refrain from signing a player until the exam or ban is lifted https://t.co/wA6jyWHBof

— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) March 16, 2020

NFL Draft won’t be a public event anymore

The 2020 NFL Draft is still happening as scheduled, but all the public events will be cancelled due to #COVID-19, according to a report: https://t.co/8XMaK9WJWF

— Buffalo Rumblings (@BuffRumblings) March 18, 2020

NFL league year will start on time

NFL says NFLPA would not provide consent to move league year, per source.

NFLPA says: No one is traveling anyway. It’s not football activity, it’s deals. Everyone is working remotely. Let’s do our business remotely. And this could get worse before it gets better. So do it now.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 15, 2020

Pegulas aren’t paying KeyBack Center event staff during hiatus

#Bills owners Kim & Terry Pegula are not compensating KeyBack Center workers displaced by #COVID19 https://t.co/WgfNk1TnCA

— Buffalo Rumblings (@BuffRumblings) March 14, 2020

NFL cancels all college player visits at schools and at team facilities

NFL has cancelled all college player visits either to the facility or to the school, per source. Only online communication, indefinitely.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 13, 2020

Our podcast rounding up the latest as of Friday morning

Everything staying status quo with new league year, CBA voting

Per sources last night and this morning:
-NFL has no plans to move back the start of the league year.
-NFLPA vote on CBA still scheduled to wrap up Saturday 11:59 pm ET.
-No plans for NFLPA to reconsider Monday’s resolution that would have allowed players to change their votes.

— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) March 13, 2020

Some teams completely shuttering facilities

Lions now encouraging all employees, except operationally critical staff, to work remotely until further notice. Lions: “It is imperative we remain diligent in our responsibility to keep our players, coaches, staff members and families safe and help slow the spread of the virus.”

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2020

49ers are closing operations at SAP Performance Center and Levi’s Stadium beginning March 13 until further notice. Employees, with limited exemptions, have been instructed to work remotely while coaches and scouts will return home by the weekend.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2020

COVID-19 Impact on sports just today:
* NCAA tournament
* NHL: postponed
* MLB: postponed 2 weeks
* MLS: postponed
* NFL owners meetings:
* Boston Marathon: postponed
* All NCAA spring sports:
* ATP: postponed 6 weeks
* 10+ NFL teams closing facilities/canceling travel

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 12, 2020

Buffalo Bills suspend travel for coaches and scouts

A statement regarding COVID-19: pic.twitter.com/yKSwOFwynp

— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) March 12, 2020

NFL cancels its annual spring meeting

The NFL's spring meeting has been canceled.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 12, 2020

Philadelphia Eagles close their training facility

And here’s the first of what could be many: Eagles are shutting down their training facility, team owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2020

More NFL teams cancel travel:

Reading that the Vikings, Eagles, Saints, Chiefs, Bucs, Redskins, Jets and Giants have told their staff members to halt all travel. I imagine we’ll likely see most and probably all NFL teams do the same over the course of today.

— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) March 12, 2020

Pre-draft visit decisions are up to the teams, not the NFL

Two notes:
— The NFL has not cancelled any pre-draft visits or workouts. That’s at a team’s discretion.
— The biggest issue for free agency may be getting players physicals. Every year, there is 1 or 2 players who fail, but how does a team ask them to get on a commercial flight?

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 12, 2020

NFL not planning to move the league calendar yet

NFL said it has "no plans to move the start of the league year."

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2020

Teams discussing shutting down facilities

Multiple NFL teams are discussing shutting down their training facilities due to the Coronavirus, league sources tell ESPN.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2020

Pro Days being cut down to only the essentials

Pro Days are getting cut down to only essential people. Teams pulling coaches off the road, canceling workouts. A lot of movement today. https://t.co/mBszcv2Rr5

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 12, 2020

Teams cancelling pre-draft workouts

On top of that #Redskins statement, @RapSheet, @TomPelissero and I are getting word that a whole lot of pre-draft workouts are being canceled today, even for players expected to be highly drafted.

— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 12, 2020

NFL has all staff work from home until further notice

The NFL has told all staff except for operationally critical staff to work from home until further notice beginning tomorrow — “out of an abundance of caution and with the health and safety of our communities as our foremost priority."

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 12, 2020

Washington Redskins suspend all travel for employees

Statement from Owner Dan Snyder: Due to health and travel concerns surrounding COVID-19 #Redskins have informed all coaches and scouts to suspend all travel until further notice. pic.twitter.com/BOMPbNbdZl

— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) March 12, 2020

First NFL event postponed

Have to think Hall of Fame Fan Fest postponement won't be last adjustment made on football-related events. The NFL has luxury of no games, but the draft has a huge public element. 6 weeks away.

— Judy Battista (@judybattista) March 12, 2020

Player, staff, and family health

First and foremost, the reason this is such an issue is that there are people we care about, that we want to keep healthy. While NFL athletes may be in top physical condition, that doesn’t necessarily apply to their spouses, their children, their extended family. Any athlete who contracts the virus could potentially put his loved ones at risk.

And that concern doubles when factoring in the coaches, scouts, training staff, service workers at the team facility, and others. These are people who don’t necessarily have the luxury of great conditioning (especially scouts, who spend 200 days per year living out of rental cars). They all have family too. While they have jobs to do, it shouldn’t come at the expense of their safety and security.

And a ton of NFL players and their families go on vacation following the season, spending time in areas under even more scrutiny than the United States.

One coronavirus concern I've heard from multiple NFL teams: Players who vacationed overseas during the offseason, and how to handle their eventual return to the team facility. These are the types of items teams are discussing this week.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 12, 2020

Free agency

Amid the dollar negotiations and phone calls, the most important recruitment effort for free agency is to bring players to visit their prospective employers. It’s a time-honored tradition to wine and dine a potential signing, to give him a tour of the facilities, to have him meet with the coaches and the training staff.

This is especially important for a team like Buffalo, who has long faced a stigmatic perception of being the NFL’s frozen wasteland.

With so much work to change the culture of the team, including the state-of-the-art training facilities, those in-person visits are crucial to sell Buffalo’s pitch. A Skype call just doesn’t deliver the same impact. NFL players and their agents will weigh the risk of heading to airports and flying to cities against their health risks, and it might force the most creative negotiation period in recent memory.

NFL Draft preparation

Free agents aren’t the only ones flying around the nation. If anything, the NFL Draft puts even more pressure on NFL teams to go around. There are hundreds of schools and prospects to investigate through this process. Schools traditionally run Pro Days during the spring, giving their athletes exposure to professional staffs, but with schools like Boston College shutting down early and closing their dorms, those events may not happen everywhere.

Even where Pro Days do take place, NFL teams are sending their scouts to watch, their coaches to run position drills, their executives for supervision. Remember, the biggest risk for infection is to participate in large group gatherings—so what happens when Alabama hosts its Pro Day and all 32 teams send a dozen representatives? All those people are travelling around the country and at risk for exposure to COVID-19, even if they take the team’s private jet.

Speaking of flight, the other part of the pre-draft process affected is the tradition of pre-draft visits. Each team is allowed 30. They’re even more crucial this year, since the number of private meetings at the Combine dropped from 60 to 45 as part of the schedule change. For the franchises, this is the only permissible way to have a personal meeting with a player and find out how he fits with the team culture. But every personal meeting now carries that risk of transmission.

Fan gatherings, large events, and season milestones

It’s still more than a month away, but at this point the NFL is taking a hard look at whether to adjust the NFL Draft in Las Vegas next month. As long as the virus circulates the world, it’s irresponsible to bring together tens of thousands of people to a live event, let alone a few hundred for an individual team’s draft party.

We may end up in a throwback world where 32 GMs join together on a live conference call with studio reporting from Mel Kiper’s basement.

Moving further ahead, how will the NFL handle Organized Team Activities? Rookie minicamps and the Rookie Symposium? Will training camps be open to the public?

The closest we’ve come to this sort of concern is whenever a team experiences a MRSA outbreak—but we’ve never reached something on a global scale now.

We’ll continue to update this article with new information as teams and the league respond to the growing pandemic.

View the full article

The Buffalo Bills....










To Fitzpatrick, Levitre, Kelsay, Mcgee, Barnett, Wilson, Jones, Nelson, Rinehart, McIntyre, Merriman, Shepperd, Scott, White, Wanny, and Mr. Chan Gailey...


It was real, it was fun, it just wasn't REAL FUN!






NEWVILLE MUD DAWGS FEVER BABY! We might not be very good right now, but we have infinite heart! Alot like the Bills! ;) HALLA!


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