In an interview with Britney Eurton at Oaklawn Park (a horseracing track), Saints head coach Sean Payton expressed skepticism that the new league year would begin as scheduled given the current status of COVID-19. “Most immediately the start of our league year… that’s going to be, I think, pushed back.” Payton currently serves on the NFL’s competition committee and is one of the most highly respected coaches in the league.
ESPN’s Dianna Russini asked Payton to clarify his comments and reported that Payton reiterated “‘he is not sure, but thinks it will be delayed.’” While that is obviously far from any official word from the league, the fact that one of the top decision makers in one of the league’s most successful organizations is publically expecting a delay does not bode well for the calendar to continue following business as usual.
Payton’s comments do conflict with some earlier reports that suggested the league still planned to start free agency as planned while delaying other offseason events that involved more travel and in-person interaction (like the draft).
A delay would move everyone into unprecedented territory and it’s unclear how any delays would impact free agents, players currently under contract, and draft prospects, but the league is clearly bracing (much like the rest of the world) for circumstances we have never seen before.