The NFL is welcoming fans back to the draft, announcing Monday that the event, which will take place in Cleveland from April 29 to May 1, will have a select number of prospects, fans and media in attendance.
Clubs will designate a number of draft ambassadors — fans who get front-row seats. They must be vaccinated and wear masks.
Building on last year’s virtual draft, additional prospects will participate in draft festivities remotely from their homes around the country.
Club personnel involved in the selection process will be permitted to gather in a draft room at a location of their choosing, whether that be their facility or elsewhere, while following appropriate protocols.
“We are thrilled to be heading to Cleveland for the NFL Draft, which has become one of the most highly anticipated events in sports,” said Peter O’Reilly, NFL executive vice president, club business and league events. “Just months after executing a safe and successful Super Bowl LV, we look forward to bringing the excitement of our Draft traditions to fans in collaboration with the Browns, Destination Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, the City of Cleveland, and all of our local Cleveland partners.”
Some of Cleveland’s iconic downtown locations, including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, FirstEnergy Stadium and the Great Lakes Science Center, will be incorporated into the three-day festivities. Most of the events are are outdoors.
The NFL will also build upon the 2020 Draft-A-Thon, using the 2021 draft as a platform to provide relief to communities most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL will also use this year’s draft to promote the COVID-19 vaccine.
The NFL notified its 32 teams earlier this month that they can return to their draft rooms for the NFL draft.
Teams must follow COVID-19 protocols and guidelines, including no drinking or eating in draft-room headquarters and mask wearing at all times. Cameras will showcase the location of the general manager and head coach.
The pandemic created a unique viewing experience during last year’s draft, as coaches and general managers worked in front of cameras in their homes.
Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the selections from his basement, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick showcased his dog and Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel had a teenager in a superhero costume as part of his backdrop. Many NFL personnel were shown with their families in the moments after the picks.
NFL team facilities were mostly vacant during that time, but business has slowly returned to normalcy after the league produced a full season with no cancellations. For free agency, players can visit team facilities for physicals, which wasn’t the case a year ago.