NFL League Year to Start on Time After CBA Vote Despite Coronavirus Concerns

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 15, 2020

MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell presents Kansas City Chiefs owner and CEO Clark Hunt with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after they defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The NFL league year will begin on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

ESPN's Adam Schefter broke the news on Twitter Sunday:

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Now official. NFL sent memo to teams, informing them: Negotiation window noon tomorrow. League year weds. Franchise designation ends tomorrow at noon. Official.

He also explained why the decision was made.

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

NFL says NFLPA would not provide consent to move league year, per source. NFLPA says: No one is traveling anyway. It’s not football activity, it’s deals. Everyone is working remotely. Let’s do our business remotely. And this could get worse before it gets better. So do it now.

Earlier Sunday, Schefter dropped a report that stated people inside the NFL believed proceedings would go on as scheduled.

"Multiple people across the league now are anticipating that the start of the league year will not be moved and it will start on time, per sources. There still are ongoing conversations, and it still could change, but there is a different tone from teams as if it is happening now."

ESPN's Dan Graziano followed up with reasons as to why that was the case.

Dan Graziano @DanGrazianoESPN

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

Soon afterward, Schefter reported more on the topic, tweeting that the "expectation continues to be that legal tampering begins noon Monday" with free agency beginning as scheduled on Wednesday, although that was pending an official word from the league.

That official word has now dropped down, and the NFL is moving on largely as scheduled despite pro days and in-house visits from 2020 draft prospects being canceled, in addition to teams pulling coaches and scouts off the road.

A new collective bargaining agreement that will last through the 2020s was approved Sunday, per Graziano, which eliminated one obstacle from starting the year as scheduled.

Matt Barrows of The Athletic laid out what lies ahead as the NFL proceeds as scheduled:

Matt Barrows @mattbarrows

If there are no changes in NFL plans: • MON at 8:59 a.m. PST is the deadline for teams to apply the franchise tag • Monday at 9 a.m. PST, the so-called “legal tampering” window opens. • WED at 1 p.m. PST, the new league year begins and teams can start signing other teams’ FAs.

However, plans for the draft in Las Vegas from April 23-25 in front of tens of thousands of expected fans will almost certainly be put on pause, with Schefter saying the following on SportsCenter.

"That's not going to happen. There's not going to be a crowd of fans at the draft this year," Schefter said. "I don't need the NFL to tell me that right now to know that. I'm telling you right know, that's not going to happen."

The question is how and where the draft will be held, and Schefter posited that options could include keeping it in Vegas but holding it in a confined space or having networks shooting the draft results through their own home studios as opposed to a draft site.

Regardless of what occurs during draft weekend, the NFL's schedule is marching forward as of now.