In what one source labeled an "unprecedented" move, the NFL has begun offering invitations to players they hope will attend the 2011 NFL Draft in New York. The fear is the NFLPA will boycott the event, which one prominent player representation firm deemed "a strong possibility."
At least two players likely to be drafted early in the first round received invites on Thursday; typically, the league hands out these offers to the top eight to 12 prospects three weeks prior to the draft.
Gil Brandt, who has personally extended the invites for the NFL, said he began talking to "several" players as far back as last summer. Brandt said more than one player verbally committed to attend the 2011 draft, but he conceded the NFLPA might advise them against it if a work stoppage extends through April.
The urgency has been caused by the looming likelihood of an NFL lockout. Prospects are considering boycotting the draft in the event of a lockout and the NFL, ever mindful of the public relations angle, will try to get players to commit to attending the event before a lockout begins.