NFL team offices and facilities largely will be shut down effective Wednesday night in response to the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN and NFL Network reported Tuesday night.
The shutdown will last for at least two weeks and is due to take effect Wednesday at 6 p.m. local time, according to a memo sent by commissioner Roger Goodell.
The move is being made to “ensure that all clubs operate on a level playing field, and that the NFL continues to conduct itself in a responsible way at this time,” Goodell wrote.
He added, “Over the past week, every NFL club has suspended normal business operations in response to the advice of medical experts and public health authorities. Last week, we agreed with the NFLPA to close all facilities to players other than those receiving medical treatment and rehabilitation. In the succeeding days, clubs took further steps to respond to current conditions and directed all but a limited number of staff to work remotely.
“In part, these changes were prompted by state or local government orders to ‘stat at home’ but in many other cases, clubs changed their practices to contribute to the national effort to employ remote work options as an essential element to reducing the rate of transmission of the COVID-19 virus and the risk of exposure.”
The new rules allow three classes of personnel to continue to be on team premises: trainers or doctors providing ongoing care to players, security or facilities managers, and computer tech staff maintaining the club’s online network.
Team operations may continue, but now they must be done from home.
Goodell wrote, “During this time, clubs are free to conduct all normal business operations, including signing players, evaluating draft-eligible prospects, selling tickets, and other activities to prepare for the 2020 season. …
“The challenges we face are not unique — many businesses and individuals throughout the country are experiencing and addressing similar issues. Please be assured that the NFL is well-positioned to meet these operational challenges as we prepare to offer our fans and the country an outstanding 2020 NFL season.”
The NFL will decide on April 8 whether to continue to the facilities shutdown.
The league previously made numerous changes to its offseason routine in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Offseason team activities (OTAs) were canceled last week, and teams were prohibited from flying to visit free agents or from having free agents fly to visit them. All league-related physicals were indefinitely banned as of Monday night.
All public events connected to the NFL Draft, which had been scheduled for April 23-25 in Las Vegas, were canceled. The draft reportedly will be conducted remotely with all teams in their home markets.
On Tuesday, ESPN reported that a committee of NFL general managers voted 6-1 to recommend postponing the draft in light of difficulties in evaluating talent and conducting medical exams. However, the league reportedly intends to go on with the draft as scheduled.