As the rest of the country has been dealing with the spread of the coronavirus, the NFL forged on with free agency.
It’s been a much-needed distraction for some but it definitely hasn’t been normal.
And on Thursday, we got another reminder of that.
Saints’ HC Sean Payton tested positive for the coronavirus, he told ESPN on Thursday. Payton is the first person in the NFL world known to test positive for the virus.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 19, 2020
Payton, 56, is the first known case of coronavirus in the NFL. Payton has been the head coach of the Saints since 2006 and is one of the most prominent head coaches in the league. He also has ties to Philly; he was the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach from 1997-98.
Apparently, Payton was at a race at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas recently. He even talked about how the virus would affect the league.
— TVG (@TVG) March 14, 2020
Here’s what Payton said to ESPN on Thursday:
“This is not just about social distancing. It’s shutting down here for a week to two weeks. If people understand the curve, and understand the bump, we can easily work together as a country to reduce it. Take a minute to understand what the experts are saying. It’s not complicated to do what they’re asking of us. Just that type of small investment by every one of us will have a dramatic impact.
“I was fortunate to be in the minority, without the serious side effects that some have. I’m lucky. Younger people feel like they can handle this, but they can be a carrier to someone who can’t handle it. So we all need to do our part. It’s important for every one of us to do our part.”
While this is the first known case of coronavirus in the NFL world, the pandemic has affected the league in other ways:
• The NFL officially decided to delay its offseason workouts and its unclear when they’ll be able to begin. The Eagles would have been allowed to start Phase 1 of their offseason workout program on April 20 but it doesn’t sound like that will happen. And OTAs in May and the mandatory minicamp in June are also in question.
There are some who think the first time NFL teams might be able to get back on the field is in the summer at training camp.
• Most NFL teams, including the Eagles, are working remotely during free agency. That means a lot of teleconferences and video calls.
It also means that there’s no travel and no physicals being performed. Because of that, nothing is official and the league has instructed teams to not announce any of their deals. That has led to some creative social media posts.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) March 18, 2020
• According to ESPN, teams are putting coronavirus-related provisions in free agent contracts. They basically say that if a player fails a physical — whenever physicals can finally be administered — they will have to hand back their signing bonus money.
• The NFL draft is still scheduled for April 23-25 but all of the events associated with it in Las Vegas are canceled. Instead, the NFL will have the draft remotely and somehow televise it.
The draft in Nashville had over 600,000 people attend and they were hoping to top that this season. So it was a pretty easy decision to just cancel it.
• The NFL completely canceled its annual league meetings scheduled for March 29-April 1 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Most of the issues from these meetings will be brought up at the spring meetings on May 19-20 … if they happen.
• The NFL has prohibited all pre-draft visits with draft prospects. That means no top-30 visits to team facilities. But it also means no NFL personnel are allowed to visit players at their schools, basically ending pro days.
Because of these restrictions, there’s a thought that NFL teams will shy away from smaller-school players who won’t get a chance to shine at pro days. Teams might instead fall back on tape of players from bigger universities.
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