Schefter: NFL ‘anticipating’ league season to start on time
The NFL is “anticipating” the league year to start on time, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted Sunday afternoon.
Though the coronavirus has led to the cancellations of sporting events, forced people to alter routines and changed travel accessibility, Schefter said the league season could begin on time.
Free agency is set to begin Wednesday and negotiations Monday at 9 a.m. Arizona time. The league and players union agreed to a new bargaining agreement Sunday.
As of Sunday morning, the league had not reached out to the union about postponing the start of free agency, NFL players association vice president Lorenzo Alexander told NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano tweeted three reasons why starting free agency on time has become an “expectation” for the league, including the fact that free agency doesn’t have crowds and that players don’t need to travel and meet with team officials before agreeing to a deal.
Reasons why this has become the expectation as day has progressed, based on conversations I've had with people familiar:
1. Free agency isn't a spectator event with large crowds.
2. Deals can be done without visits.
3. What if they push it back two weeks and things get worse? https://t.co/M1iVK4vuYD
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) March 15, 2020
Not everyone agrees with this. Prior to these tweets, Alexander told Siciliano he thought it would be a “common sense” move to postpone the start of free agency.
Alexander believes that the travel requirements for free agency would create logistical difficulties and stressful situations for those who don’t want to risk infecting others with COVID-19. While travel isn’t a requirement to sign a deal, if a player has similar offers from multiple teams, it often comes down to things best observed in person: chemistry, facilities including training rooms, play style.
“Of course, doing free agency, you’re going to want to travel. A lot of guys want to be able to travel to the team, coaches want to be able to see you, you gotta do physicals. There’s so many logistical things that you have to overcome if you start free agency tomorrow,” Alexander said.
He said he some free agents may fear traveling and risking infecting family members.
“I know several people that have preexisting conditions I’m in contact with. As a free agent, I wouldn’t want to feel like I have to be put in a predicament to where I don’t want to necessarily go visit a team because of being exposed to something and then bringing it back to my family, and then maybe they decide to go in a different direction with a guy who might have a different situation, maybe closer to the team, can drive,” Alexander said.
“It just makes sense league-wide, even if they don’t want to come to us, to push things back, because it makes sense when you put things in context of what’s going on in our world today.”
📺: Free Agency Frenzy on NFL Network pic.twitter.com/3dByFK33Pp
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 15, 2020
However, pushing back free agency would inevitably have a ripple effect that would lead to the postponement of other offseason dates, which the NFL seemingly fears based on Graziano’s tweet.
Last year, the first day of Arizona Cardinals organized team activity began April 8. Voluntary minicamp was from April 23-25, rookie minicamp was from May 10-12, and there were nine total days of OTA offseason workouts between May 20 through June 6.
Mandatory minicamp was June 11-13.
The NFL draft is scheduled to begin April 23. Alexander was not asked if there have been any discussions about moving it back.