Miami Dolphins announce plans for scaled-down (and socially distant) draft party

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A Miami Dolphins fan cheers against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 28, 2019 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. - Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America/TNS

The original plan was for a Las Vegas blowout, a Sin City draft party with an exclusive VIP area for season-ticket holders with food and drink included.

And then coronavirus happened, and the Miami Dolphins had to downsize considerably.

On Monday, they announced Plan B (or perhaps C or even D):

A virtual draft party, providing fans access to interviews with draft picks, Q&As with current players and live video analysis from Dolphins analysts. The event will be available on the team’s Facebook group.

“While we remain vigilant of the ongoing situation that continues to impact so many, we hope the Facebook virtual draft party will bring fans together to celebrate our new players and interact with the team from their own homes,” said Laura Sandall, the Dolphins’ vice president of marketing. “We look forward to welcoming the draft picks to South Florida and introducing them to the community when it is safe to do so.”

The Dolphins’ scaled-down plans mirror those of the league, which scrapped its annual block party for a studio draft show. The player selection meeting will still go forward April 23-25, but in a pandemic-appropriate fashion.

The Los Angeles Times reported recently that the draft “will be conducted at remote locales, including video connectivity with about 50 prospects in their homes, as well as the option to virtually ‘pull in’ some current and former players, and even fans.”

With thousands of Americans dead and a third of a million testing positive for coronavirus, the NFL had no choice but to severely curtail its plans. Even team operations have been affected, it seems general manager Chris Grier will have to phone in the Dolphins’ NFL-high 14 picks from his living room.

The NFL informed the 32 clubs Monday that the draft will be conducted in a “fully virtual format,” NFL Network first reported.

Team executives should prepare to run the draft outside of their facilities — in their homes and “must communicate with one another and Draft headquarters by phone or internet.”

What’s more, the league has canceled all draft prospect facility visits, although teams can communicate with players via the phone or video conferencing.

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©2020 Miami Herald