- ESPN.com national NFL writer
- ESPN.com NFC North reporter, 2008-2013
- Covered Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999-2008
The NFL moved ahead with a virtual draft during the coronavirus pandemic because it wanted to provide hope to a sports world in need of it, commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday.
“People look to us for optimism,” Goodell said during an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up.
He added: “They look to us for bringing communities together. I think the draft is a great example of that, with restoring hope. It’s hope for our fans. It’s hope for our teams. It’s hope for our players, for these young men who are about to start their careers as prospects and players in the NFL. That’s what this is all about, and I think we need those diversions. I think we need that focus on the future and that way to bring communities together. I think we’ll be able to do that for the next three days, and then we’ll focus on the future immediately after that.”
The draft will be conducted with every decision-maker working from home. Goodell will announce first-round picks Thursday night from the basement of his house in New York, and 58 draft prospects will be connected via remote video to document their reactions.
There will be two separate broadcasts, one via ABC and a second that will be simulcast on ESPN and NFL Network. Both broadcasts will originate from ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut.
When the draft wraps up Saturday, the NFL will begin to shift its focus into thornier issues. As players and coaches conduct a virtual offseason program, Goodell and owners will have to consider the fate of training camp and the start of the regular season.
Goodell reiterated Wednesday that the league is preparing for the season to start on time in September but acknowledged that it must also plan for alternatives.
“You have to be willing to adapt,” he said. “You have to be willing to be prepared to adapt. You can’t expect or anticipate every move, but your job is to try to be as prepared as possible. So we do that. We’ll continue to do that. But we will make sure we’re putting our players in a safe position, our coaches, our team personnel, everybody, our partners. And we’ll make sure that those are the issues that we’ll put first. And ultimately, it’ll probably come down to a league and an owners’ decision.”
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