The New Orleans Saints brewed up a storm when it announced that it would hold its draft war meetings in an unlikely place.  The owner of the team, Gayle Benson, who also owns the New Orleans Pelicans, has her hands in a lot of businesses, including the Dixie Brewing Company, a local brewery in New Orleans.

Otherwise a public location, Saints head coach Sean Payton believes it is the perfect venue because it is logistically easy for those involved in team decisions to reach, and, because of the coronavirus, the brewery is currently not operating.  It may have just been a coincidence, but the NFL sent out a memo to league teams the day after Payton’s announcement discussing two scenarios for locations teams can use for their draft preparations.

In a message to USA Today, Payton asserted, “We might have the safest setup in the league for these meetings.  Remote location. Nobody here!”  He has arranged the gatherings so there will only be as many as four people in the room, including GM Mickey Loomis and assistant GM Jeff Ireland, and insists that social distancing will be practiced at all times.  He added, “More importantly, the four of us in this room (are) all alone at home.  Temperatures taken prior to entering room. Each day … cleaning and sterilized.”

Draft, 2020 NFL Season Won’t Be Scared Off

The draft is scheduled to take place this month, April 23-25, and there are no plans to change the schedule.  The three-day event would normally have included ceremonies, gatherings and celebrations, but everything has been removed from the scheduled except for the actual draft activity.  The NFL has repeatedly stated that it will not force any delays, and that the regular season will start as planned and on time.

In releasing its policies for how league teams manage their draft activities yesterday, the NFL said that it is still debating the two possibilities.  The memo, which was shared by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, indicates that the first option would have teams operating out of their own offices, “subject to mandatory health and safety guidelines issued by Dr. (Allen) Sills, which will include limitations on the number of permitted club personnel at the facility and rigorous cleaning requirements.”

The other option would find teams handling their draft operations remotely.  This could be accomplished through the use of a “personal residences, with a clear prohibition on any number of club personnel gathering in one residence,” according to the memo.  It’s doubtful that the Dixie brewery counts as a private residence, but it’s even more doubtful that Payton would be willing to accept the league’s decision without a fight.  It seems that NFL executives would expect nothing less, given additional text in the memo.

The NFL Knows Its Players And Coaches

The NFL guidance furthers explains, “The NFL will decide on (1) or (2) above based on several factors, most notably guidance from Dr. Sills, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the impact of any shelter in place or similar executive orders that are imposed in club jurisdictions.”  It added that it will not require that teams to “move their Draft Day operations to an alternate off-site location. … However, a club may still decide to operate its draft from an off-site location, rather than from its facility, provided that such activity is permissible by law and in compliance with the mandatory guidelines issued by Dr. Sills.”

And, there it is.  Payton’s choice to have a brewery as his draft war room is almost a sure thing.  “Permissible by law” is subjective in New Orleans, given the status Benson and the team enjoy, and Dr. Sills most likely won’t be willing to pick a fight that he is almost guaranteed to lose.