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NFL teams are curtailing or completely stopping scouting operations as a safeguard against the spread of the new coronavirus.
The Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans and New York Jets have ordered their scouts and assistant coaches to return home. Other teams, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, have cut back on scouting in what is usually a busy time for evaluating college players. The NFL draft is scheduled for April 23-25 in Las Vegas.
“Due to health and travel concerns surrounding COVID-19, we have informed all of our scouts and coaches that they must return to their home bases and travel will be suspended until further notice," Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement Thursday. "The health and safety of our staff and players is our number one priority and we feel that these are the necessary precautions given the current circumstances.”
Soon after, the Vikings announced a similar decision.
“We continue to closely monitor coronavirus developments and maintain contact with the NFL, health officials and other local professional teams,” a team statement said. "Consistent with guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we have implemented precautionary procedures to protect staff and reduce the risk of acquisition and transmission inside TCO Performance Center (where the Vikings train).
“…. We are also suspending travel for our coaches and scouts until further notice and reviewing restrictions on large public gatherings in the near future. These are uncertain times, and our priority is to protect the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and fans and do our part to minimize the spread of this virus.”
The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs have instructed all non-essential team personnel to work remotely for a minimum of 14 days beginning on Monday. They also have suspended business travel and all non-essential travel for coaches and scouts for now.
The University of Michigan and Penn State on Thursday called off pro days. Other schools still plan to hold theirs — or make decisions on postponing or canceling them pending developments.
Alabama spokesman Josh Maxson said no final decision has been made but he expected the Crimson Tide's pro day would be canceled.
NFL teams also are either limiting or eliminating facility visits by draft prospects. So are player agents.
“As an agent, it's my strong recommendation that my players don't travel for any team visits,” Mike McCartney tweeted. “With 12 or more games played, an All-Star game and Combine for most, teams have enough information to make an informed draft decision.”
NFL teams can bring in to their facilities for visits up to 30 players heading to the draft, though there are some exceptions for players from local schools.
Also Thursday, Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league's main annual meetings have been canceled. They were scheduled for March 29-April 1 in Palm Beach, Florida, and were to include owners voting on potential rules changes.
Instead, those major decisions will be made at the May 19-20 spring meetings in Marina del Rey, California.
There has been little talk of postponing or canceling the draft, though staging it in Las Vegas seems a long shot. The NFL says it is monitoring the situation. Holding the draft without fans as a televised event in a studio or conference hall could be an option.