NFL: NFL Draft

In this still image from video provided by the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks from his home in Bronxville, N.Y., on Thursday.

BUSINESS AS USUAL.

As indoor sports search for a way to end their seasons and as baseball seeks a way to start its 2020 season, the NFL is determined to go full speed ahead.

That’s what this draft is all about.

Because of the world pandemic, Roger Goodell emceed from his basement. Jerry Jones appeared via remote from his yacht. Fan reaction came via a Zoom connection behind Goodell — as he asked for MORE boos — and players didn’t get their chance to go up on stage and meet the commish and get their hugs.

The first night included the predictable move by Bill Belichick to move out of the first round. The Pats didn’t see a quarterback important enough to take in the first round, so Tom Brady‘s throne remains empty.

It was the first virtual draft for the league. The draft-niks didn’t care. The ratings were, if I can borrow a phrase, through the roof.

And other than Goodell saying Las Vegas would be hosting the 2020 draft when it’s actually 2022 after Cleveland’s turn next year, the production was smooth. It was fun.

“This draft, with every other major sport shut down, is under a historic microscope,” NBC’s Peter King said.

Pats fans got excited when the Packers picked a quarterback, meaning, to some Pats fans’ thinking, Aaron Rodgers might be available. Reader Larry Rosoff suggested Joe Thuney and picks for Rodgers, who was drafted as a future replacement for Brett Favre just as Jordan Love was tabbed as Rodgers’ future guy. And they traded up to do it.

Rodgers OK with that? Let’s just say he was surprised.

“I haven’t connected with Aaron yet,” Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said. “I think that when you go through kind of the way things went tonight, you weigh the short-term and the long-term and the way the board went, this was just the best decision for the Packers.”

Love said Friday night he’d already spoken to Rodgers and was upbeat about their first chat.

Rodgers isn’t as good as he once was, but he’s better than Jarrett Stidham, currently the only QB on the New England depth chart.

Speaking of Stidham, NBC’s Cris Collinsworth makes it clear the second-year man is NOT the way for the Patriots to go in this post-Brady season.

“As you look at the New England Patriots today, I think Andy Dalton will give them a better chance than Jarrett Stidham,” Collinsworth said.

King, in his final mock draft, had the Patriots trading up for Tua Tagovailoa, saying, “It’s simply a guess. But think if you’re Belichick, because your team never finishes 3-13, you never have a chance to get one of the best quarterbacks in the college game.

“Until Tagovailoa’s hip popped out of the socket last November, forcing immediate and urgent surgery, he was 1/1A with the transcendent Joe Burrow to be the first pick in this draft. And you don’t want to pillage the lone first or lone second-round pick from next year’s draft. But do you do it for a great but pockmarked talent such as Tagovailoa five months after major hip surgery? I do know Belichick would have confidence in his player-procurement skills.”

As you know, it didn’t happen.

Reunion talk

Former wrestling champion Rob Gronkowski is thrilled to be back with his quarterback — and to be healthy. His health is hardly a given when you consider his injury history.

“To build chemistry with a quarterback takes so much practice and time,” Gronk said. “We’ve done so many extra practices and workouts to get on the same page, and we’re excited for a fresh start down in Tampa.

“Now my fire is back.”

If you know anything at all about Belichick and the Pats, you know they’re not always forthcoming when it comes to roster announcements. So, it came as no surprise when the release announcing Gronkowski to Tampa Bay included the words, “Terms of the trade were not disclosed.”

Really?

Papi disagrees

As we said here Friday, the general feeling is the Red Sox escaped virtually unscathed when MLB offered up its punishment for alleged 2018 sign stealing.

Apparently, no one told David Ortiz.

“They were searching, trying to find out if anything that happened at Houston happened in Boston, and, basically, it wasn’t even close to a similar situation,” Ortiz recently told Fox Sports.. “What happened in Boston is what everybody is doing in the league right now, and I think the punishment was not fair.”

Video guy J.T. Watkins, a former Sox farmhand (catcher, first base) was suspended for the 2020 season and cannot return in the same job in ’21. If you remember the name from the past, you might even know he hit two home runs in three seasons.

“In my view, Watkins was placed in a very difficult position by virtue of his dual role as the person responsible for decoding signs pregame and as the person responsible for operating the Red Sox replay system,” Manfred said in the report.

Sox owner John Henry, in an e-mail to The Boston Globe, which he also owns, summed the ordeal up by saying, “What I regret most about all of this beyond the toll it took on our organization is the position it put our fans in — having for months to wonder if the 2018 championship could actually be the result of unfair play. It’s clear from the report that these isolated occurrences in 2018 happened during the regular season.

“The report references how often those instances called into question had an opportunity to take place and within the context of the overall season all one has to do is the math to see the net potential result. But I’ll let others do the math.”

Yankee manager Aaron Boone, never one to shake up the waters, backed the decision of the commissioner.

“I don’t know. Who knows exactly what went down,” he told the YES Network. “I do trust that MLB thoroughly investigated and got to the bottom of things as best they can, and feel like if that’s what was come up with then so be it. It’s time to move on, and I’m glad we’re kind of through those situations.

“As I’ve said all along — and I do believe this — hopefully just as a sport, we’ll be better moving forward, knowing that (if) you mess around, they’re coming for you. And I think that’s a good thing.”

Wanting more

If you’ve forgotten, the Bruins sit in first place in the overall NHL standings and would love a real shot at bettering last year’s playoff run by just one win.

“Both players and ownership want to do everything possible to get this season completed,” president Cam Neely said on a virtual town hall with season ticket holders last week. “If it means playing into the summer, we’re all willing to do that if it means pushing next season back.

“It’s an opportunity to push and still get an 82-game season in the following year. We’re going to be as patient as possible. Players are doing everything they can to keep themselves in the best shape they can before we can hopefully get back to some sort of training camp and get on the ice.

“Everything is on the table to try and get this season completed, which is exciting for us. I know our players are very excited about it based on where we finished when the pause took place and the potential our group has.”

Not even sure he wants to play, but could free agent Dustin Byfuglien add depth and toughness to the Bruins if the season does resume?

Season plans

As MLB looks for a way to start its season, you can count the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo among those who doesn’t want to participate in the proposed neutral-site experience that could take the season into December.

“I think you’re going to have a hard time telling grown men with established lives to stay in a hotel and not be with their families,” he told The Athletic. “You’re going to tell Kris Bryant that he’s not going to see his baby for 4½ months?” …

Wade Boggs, who said he thought he may have contracted COVID-19 from Chris Sale, took it back, saying, “I could have gotten it from anybody at the event (in Tampa). I was joking because Chris Sale had been extremely sick, and I was saying, ‘Hey, maybe he’s the one who gave me the virus.’ Evidently, the humor was lost in the context of the article.”

Looking around

Yankee GM Brian Cashman is a big believer in new Sox counterpart Chaim Bloom, saying recently, “I think Chaim Bloom is going to be a fantastic general manager. From my interactions with him, he’s got intellect. He’s got personality. He’s got empathy. I just feel like all of those attributes are going to serve him extremely well as he navigates running a big-market operation, one of the best franchises in the industry.” …

Great line from Pats personnel man Nick Caserio after as empty first night. “I’m sure we’ll be active tomorrow. At some point we’ll end up picking a player,” he said. Funny that the guys who love trading down actually moved UP in the second round — and they did for for versatile defender Josh Uche from Michigan. …

Kudos to Devin and Jason McCourty twins for purchasing $90,000 worth of Chromebooks for kids in Rockland County, N.Y., for use at home while schools are closed. These guys get it. ...

Former A’s GM Sandy Alderson said he offered Michael Jordan a MAJOR LEAGUE contract when Jordan decided to try baseball back in the 90’s. “When I heard that (he was going to play baseball), I called his agent right away,” Alderson said on a recent ESPN podcast. “And (I) said, ‘Hey, look, I understand he may be going to Double-A. I don’t even know who the 25th man is on (the) team, our major-league team right now. I will sign him and put him on the major-league roster. He’ll be part of our 25-man team tomorrow.’ It never came to fruition. But I was totally serious.”

Have you seen the first two chapters of The Last Dance, the quality ESPN documentary on Jordan and the Bulls? Three and four are on Sunday night. Larry Bird after Jordan’s playoff explosion against the Celtics: “That wasn’t Michael Jordan out there tonight; that was God disguised as Michael Jordan.” …

Mookie Betts said it took a call from his mom to get him comfortable in his new threads. “It was weird,” he said. “It took my mom calling to say, ‘You look good in blue’ before I accepted it. Accepted the blue. It was super weird.” …

Finally, the Bucs are anything but favored to become the first team ever to host a Super Bowl. But they’re good — and got Brady some more protection with Tampa drafting offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs of Iowa with the pick after moving up in a deal. “He is absolutely the perfect fit for us because it’s really hard for lineman to come out of college now and jump right in,” said coach Bruce Arians.

Arians on trading for Gronk: “I kept talking to Tom (Brady) about it and he brought it up…The fire was lit.”

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.