4 Biggest Takeaways from the NFL Spring League Meeting
The NFL is a progressive and forward-thinking league, so changes are expected to occur and news is expected to break at the NFL Spring League Meeting, which began Monday in Boston.
No definitive news has come out of the league meeting yet, which continues Tuesday and Wednesday. That said, reporters covering the league meetings have come away with some interesting takeaways that are expected to play out over the next two days or in upcoming weeks.
A Longer Draft Season?
The NFL draft has been held on the fourth weekend of April each year since the draft converted to its current three-day format in 2010. In 2014 and potentially beyond, it appears as though the draft season is going to be extended by a few weeks.
ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted Monday that the NFL and NFL Players' Association are on the verge of moving the draft into May. In 2014, the draft is expected to be held May 15-17, the third weekend of May.
According to NFL.com, a scheduling conflict may be an immediate reason for the change in 2014. Christian religious holiday Easter falls on the third Sunday of April next year, while the Radio City Rockettes' "Spring Spectacular" is reportedly scheduled to be held in late April at draft venue Radio City Music Hall.
NFL Network's Albert Breer tweeted that the change would likely begin as a "one-year trial," but Schefter tweeted the two sides are already negotiating changes for 2015 and 2016 as well. The draft would be tentatively scheduled for May 7-9, 2015 and May 5-7, 2016, according to another Schefter tweet.
While the expected draft date for 2014 would be a three-week change from the fourth weekend of April, the draft season would only be extended two weeks in 2015 and one week in 2016 under the tentatively scheduled dates.
Many NFL fans and media are unhappy about the projected changes, as it would extend the waiting period until the NFL draft and limit vacation periods for NFL team personnel and media.
On the flip side, extending the draft season would increase the time scouts have to evaluate prospects leading up to the draft. Additionally, it would shorten the time between the end of draft season and the beginning of training camps, the only time period of the NFL year which is relatively quiet in terms of activity.
Free Agency Earlier, Scouting Combine Later?
The NFL draft is not the only event the league is expected to rearrange on its annual schedule. Adam Schefter also reported via Twitter that the NFL is expected to move the start of the league year, which also opens the NFL's free-agency period, to before the league's annual NFL Scouting Combine.
While the draft is expected to be rescheduled in 2014, scheduling changes to the league year and combine are not expected until 2015, Schefter tweeted.
The combine is typically held in late February, while the NFL league year has opened in early March in recent years. Should the league make this change for 2015 and 2016, the combine is expected to be moved to mid-March, according to Schefter.
These changes could have a significant effect on the flow of the NFL offseason. First of all, it will allow teams to go into the combine having a much better idea of how their rosters shape up—but could also have teams still focused on the continuation of free agency when the combine begins.
Additionally, moving the combine out to mid-March would also delay the start of pro days for NFL draft prospects. Pro days are typically held throughout the month of March, but would likely be dragged out into April with the proposed schedule changes.
Future Super Bowl Sites
NFL owners will vote Tuesday to decide which cities and stadiums will host Super Bowl L (2016) and Super Bowl LI (2017).
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora tweeted Monday that the San Francisco 49ers are expected to host Super Bowl L, with the Houston Texans expected to be the winning bidders for Super Bowl LI.
Both of those sites make clear sense as upcoming Super Bowl destinations.
Super Bowl L would be held inside Levi's Stadium, a new stadium being built in Santa Clara, Calif. (approximately 45 miles south of San Francisco) where the 49ers will begin play in 2014.
The Texans' Reliant Stadium has previously hosted Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004) and is currently being renovated to have the widest video display boards of any professional sports stadium by the start of the 2013 season.
The 49ers and Texans are currently two of the NFL's strongest teams and have the talent to continue being among the league's best teams in 2016-2017. The possibility of either team playing in a home Super Bowl later this decade is a very real one.
NFL Medical Records Going Digital?
One pertinent issue when it comes to NFL medical information is that it is not always transmitted clearly when a player switches teams. That is expected to change by the 2014 season, according to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports.
Cole reports that eight NFL teams are currently participating in the "first stage" of implementing electronic medical records. The EMR system will be a "comprehensive database for information on player injuries," and is expected to be used by all 32 teams by 2014, according to Cole's report.
For NFL teams, this could be a very valuable resource. It could help teams know what they are truly getting in a player they sign or trade, and also whether injury history should factor in that player's contract or trade value.
Players with injury histories, however, will be unhappy about all 32 teams having access to that information. Teams are likely to cite injury histories as risk factors and use those as leverage when negotiating contracts with players.
This could lead players to hide injuries from NFL teams, according to an agent who spoke with Cole.
"I would advise my clients to seek outside doctors and not report anything to the team if they're going to share information," an agent with more than 20 years experience said recently. "There are obviously some injuries that everybody is going to know about. But I don't want everything my player does to get reported to every team. No way."