The NFL positioned itself as an agent of national relief, offering the 2020 NFL Draft as a moment of distraction during the coronavirus outbreak.
Commissioner Roger Goodell was likewise relieved when it was over.
Judy Battista of NFL Network spoke to Goodell after the completion of the longer-than-normal first round, and said he sounded “weary” after broadcasting from his basement.
“It went well, so I’ll sleep a little better,” he said. “It’s an adjustment, and it’s different.
“You don’t compare it to the other ones. It was really cool.”
There were problems along the way — specifically Goodell awarding the 2020 NFL Draft to Las Vegas (he meant 2022). But on the whole, the technology held up, there were no major problems with the mechanics of the annual selection meeting.
“It definitely was full steam ahead,” he said. “But you always have your hesitations, your concerns. I know how important this is to the clubs. If we had come out of this where they didn’t have time to make trades or if something operationally went wrong . . . but we heard zero of that. People were making a big deal of that, making a big deal of, is it really the right time to do this kind of event. . . .
“People were looking forward to it; it went way beyond interest in football. It struck a chord with people. I think, I hope, it sounds like we struck the right tone of recognizing health care workers and first responders while keeping the focus on football.”
Goodell suggested that some elements of last night’s process may carry over into future drafts, but the more immediate concern is what steps the league can take next. While the schedule release is still expected by May 9, all other football-related activities are on hold with team facilities locked down.
“My assumption is we will be opening them with some restrictions as far as the number of personnel,” Goodell said. “We’re going to seek to open them all at the same time for equity. What ultimately made the football folks comfortable at the club level with the draft was they were all working with the same rules. We are going to have to get the protocol straight. We can’t move to open until the last team can, so we may have to make some accommodations.
“Our job is to make sure we work through the problems and try to figure out a way to stay on schedule.”
That’s going to be a bigger challenge than broadcasting from his basement.