Update: Nola.com’s Amie Just and ESPN’s Mike Triplett contested the initial Yahoo Sports report, noting that the Saints have not yet made any changes and are operating as usual, though NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reported that teams are considering changes as the situation develops. But with the coronavirus continuing to spread and colleges around the country converting to digital classrooms and cancelling large events, NFL teams and their fans should remain vigilant of any new disruptions.
The New Orleans Saints are one of several teams reportedly recalling coaches from the college pro day circuit ahead of next month’s NFL draft, per Eric Edholm and Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports. The move is considered a precaution against the rising coronavirus pandemic spreading nationally and around the globe; keeping the coaching staff based in New Orleans would limit exposure to potential infections, which could spread rapidly throughout the team facility.
It would be a big departure from the norm. Coaches only really get involved in the pre-draft evaluating process at all-star games like the Senior Bowl and during interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine. These college pro days give coaches an opportunity to work out prospects through specific drills and meet one-on-one afterwards, scheduling future meetings and private visits at the team facility.
However, the Saints wouldn’t be flying blind before April’s draft. Their scouts are expected to remain on the road visiting dozens of college campuses, working remotely as usual and filing daily reports digitally or through conference calls. Their ability to continue working away from the facility should limit potential chances of infection.
The Yahoo Sports adds that every NFL team has held meetings to address health and safety concerns, updating personnel on what they can do to stay safe with the virus still spreading.
It’s unclear how these changes in travel plans will impact draft-day decisions, as well as the weeks of research that factor into them. Teams are allowed to fly as many as 30 prospects into their home cities for private meetings, interviews, and workouts, but they often supplement those official visits with informal meetings surrounding these pro days. It’s certainly a situation to monitor ahead of the April 23 draft in Las Vegas.