Report: Some NFL Officials Skeptical League Year Starts on Time Amid Coronavirus

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IMarch 14, 2020

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 19: A detail view of the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE logo on the goal post stanchion before the AFC Championship Game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium on January 19, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
David Eulitt/Getty Images

The NFL is scheduled to open the new league year on March 18, with free agency kicking off at the same time. Despite the league sticking to that notion thus far, multiple team officials are reportedly skeptical the NFL will be able to conduct business while the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread. 

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, there is serious doubt the league will open its new year on time:

Some [officials said] they believe the NFL is waiting for voting results from the NFL Players Association on the proposed collective bargaining agreement to announce its next step, in hopes of avoiding a third delay to the players' CBA decision. The vote is scheduled to end Saturday at 11:59 p.m. ET, with a simple majority needed to pass.

But the NFL continues to say it's business as usual and that the new league year will start at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday as planned, with legal tampering for free agents set to begin at noon ET Monday.

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Once the CBA voting result is known, the NFL and NFLPA are expected to be in contact Sunday to determine the next steps for the offseason--whether or not to delay free agency and postpone teams' offseason programs for players.

While the NFL had previously canceled its annual league meeting set for March 29 to April 1, there had been few indications it would halt the opening of free agency or the start of the new year, despite previous reporting that those options were being considered. 

Given that in-person visits, administering physicals and contract negotiations require close contact with other groups of individuals, concerns over how to handle free agency have been rising, per Schefter. The league had already banned in-person, pre-draft visits with potential picks and many teams had individually decided to recall scouts from the road and close their facilities due to the virus. 

As of Saturday morning, COVID-19 has infected more than 142,000 people worldwide, with 1,678 cases in the United States leading to 41 confirmed deaths, per CNN

With the NBA, NHL, MLB and PGA seasons on hiatus, the NFL is currently planning to move ahead with its original schedule. 

As noted by ESPN, the NFL has adjusted its offseason calendar in the past, most recently in 2011 during a lockout between owners and players amid collective bargaining negotiations. 

While those two sides are again back at work on a new CBA that would affect free agency this spring and summer if passed, that hasn't caused the NFL to alter its schedule yet, either.