The release of the upcoming season’s schedule is a significant tentpole in every offseason, though that tentpole ordinarily would have happened several weeks earlier than it did this year. The NFL only unveiled the schedule last night, when it typically is released in the middle of April, prior to the NFL Draft.
The reasons for the delay are obvious to everyone who has paid even the slightest attention to the world over the course of the past couple of months. The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown almost all business into uncertainty, and has grounded almost all professional sports indefinitely.
The CFL, for example, recently reported that the most likely outcome is that they will not have a season this year. The NHL and NBA are still cautiously optimistic about completing their paused, in-progress seasons, while the MLB is looking into potential modifications for its typically 162-game slate.
As for the NFL, they are forging ahead—on paper, and in public—as though nothing is happening, more or less. There aren’t many meaningful indications about contingencies in the schedules released yesterday, aside from the fact that all teams have been given two home games and two road games over the course of the first four weeks.
Said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement yesterday, “the release of the NFL schedule is something our fans eagerly anticipate every year, as they look forward with hope and optimism to the season ahead. In preparing to play the season as scheduled, we will continue to make our decisions based on the latest medical and public health advice, in compliance with government regulations, and with appropriate safety protocols to protect the health of our fans, players, club and league personnel, and our communities”.
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) May 8, 2020
He added, “we will be prepared to make adjustments as necessary, as we have during this off-season in safely and efficiently conducting key activities such as free agency, the virtual off-season program, and the 2020 NFL draft”.
Like every other league, the league behind closed doors is running through a litany of contingency plans in the event that they are unable to play their season as originally scheduled, with the requirement of things being shifted around.
There is the possibility of the entire season being pushed back, with early games being made up later in the year, and even the Super Bowl and the entire playoffs schedule happening at a later date. Another option is to truncate the season to 14 or 12 games. I would imagine shortening or even eliminating the preseason is on the table.
Pretty much the only thing that we have heard that is not on the table is the consideration of holding the entire league in one centralized location, which is reportedly an idea that other leagues have given some thought to. If it comes down to it, however, it wouldn’t surprise me if they do give it some thought.