By Harvey Hoffman
As the rest of the sports world is on a break because of the coronavirus, the NFL is pushing on, according to a memo sent to teams that ESPN obtained.
The player-team negotiation window will start at noon ET today and that the league year will start Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET — both as were planned before the coronavirus outbreak.
A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the NFL had wanted to move back the start of the year, but the players’ association would not provide consent, arguing that working on deals did not require travel or in-person meetings. The first day of the legal tampering period for free agents typically opens with a slew of meetings between teams and players or their representatives.
The NFLPA was also concerned about how long the delays could last, given the uncertain timeline of the global pandemic, a source said.
The NFL last week maintained that the new league year would start on schedule, though team officials had grown skeptical in recent days about the date staying put given the outbreak. However, before the memo was sent Sunday, a different tone had taken root across the league, with multiple sources coming to anticipate that the date would not be moved.
The NFL already has taken measures to adhere to calls for social distancing when it comes to meeting with draft hopefuls, prohibiting “all in-person, pre-draft visits involving draft-eligible players,” according to an earlier memo obtained by ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
That memo came amid a wave of statements from individual teams announcing they were pulling their scouts and player personnel staff from the road amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The league also has canceled its annual meeting, which was scheduled to be held in West Palm Beach, Florida, from March 29 through April 1.
The NFL has adjusted to a truncated calendar before. In 2011, amid a lockout that ran from March to August, the league year did not begin until Aug. 4, with preseason games starting a week later.