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New NFL memo lays foundation for about-face on “small war rooms”

The NFL will currently let teams to gather for mini war rooms of ten or less people during the 2020 NFL Draft, but Mike Florio and Chris Simms don't believe the rule will stay in place for very long.

On Wednesday, PFT asked the NFL via email whether the decision to allow “small war rooms” of up to 10 people can be harmonized with “stay at home” orders that have been issued in most of the states in which NFL teams do business. The NFL did not respond to the question, which later was posed publicly via this blurb.

On Thursday, the NFL responded to the obvious dilemma, in a different way.

In a memo from NFL Football Operations and the NFL Management Council dated April 2 to all teams and first obtained by ESPN, the league provides “additional clarity” regarding draft-day preparations that, as of Tuesday, allowed teams to arrange small off-site gatherings for draft purposes. And that clarity likely will be, in time, an about-face regarding the possibility of allowing teams to gather in “small war rooms.”

The memo explains that the NFL currently is considering two options: (1) allowing teams to gather at club facilities, subject to mandatory health and safety guidelines issued by the league; or (2) requiring the the draft to be conducted in “totally remote” fashion, with the picks made in “personal residences, with a clear prohibition on any number of club personnel gathering in one residence.” The memo also explains that a decision will be made “based on several factors,” including “the impact of any shelter in place or similar executive orders that are imposed in club jurisdictions.”

In our view, the memo amounts to a face-saving way of admitting that Tuesday’s announcement flat-out failed to take into account the basic reality that one or more states in which the NFL does business won’t allow coaches, General Managers, owners, or anyone else to leave their homes for the draft. No matter how essential the league may think having a draft war room is to team business, it’s likely not within the realm of essential activities that justify leaving home at this critical juncture of controlling the spread of coronavirus.

And here’s why the end result will be that all club officials will be confined to their homes for the draft: If even one state in which the NFL does business refuses to authorize a deviation from a “stay at home” order, then all team will be required stay at home. And, surely, at least one state in which the NFL does business will tell the NFL that the draft is work that can and must be done at home.