The 2021 NFL draft events calendar suffered its first COVID-19 setback with the cancellation of this year’s East-West Shrine Bowl, an annual all-star game that features some of the top senior talent in the country. The game was scheduled to take place on Jan. 21 in Tampa, Florida.
“It’s terribly disappointing to have to cancel this year’s game, but there are so many issues involved with bringing in approximately 130 players and 25 NFL coaches from every corner of the United States and Canada,” said the game’s executive director, Bob Roller. “It’s difficult enough currently for these college teams to provide some sort of a bubble during the regular season, but our game occurs after all players have gone home for the holidays. It presented too many potential issues for this one year.”
The Shrine Bowl traditionally features players jockeying for Day-3 status and sometimes a player or two performs so well that they get called up to the bigger and more illustrious all-star game, the Senior Bowl.
Speaking of the Senior Bowl, there’s been no indication that the game will be canceled because of the novel coronavirus. In fact, players are receiving their invitations during the season, with some of those moments being shared on social media like Grambling State’s David Moore Jr.:
🔈🆙Our third 2021 @reeses Senior Bowl invitation goes out to OL David Moore Jr (@Dav60_) from @GSU_TIGERS. Thank you #GramFam LEGEND, and @WashingtonNFL Sr. VP of Player Dev. Doug Williams for the assist! Link to full video: https://t.co/Z34BcYRRcb#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE #HBCU pic.twitter.com/dU9jkhweF0
— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) October 27, 2020
Senior Bowl executive director, Jim Nagy, will have his hands full trying to navigate COVID-19 concerns and the NFL’s desire to have the game kick-off as scheduled. It’s difficult imagining a scenario where all of the top players attend the game. In non-COVID years, players routinely skip the game to avoid injury risk. Now, with the virus being an additional concern for players (and their agents), it’s highly unlikely the game will have the same look and feel as years past.
Like everything else with COVID-19, it’s just a waiting game.