The future of the 2020 NFL season remains somewhat uncertain. While it’s rather unlikely that it doesn’t actually come to pass—or at least to be attempted—the form in which it will take, and the safety protocols that will be implemented, are still taking shape over the course of the next several weeks.
While other leagues are arranging plans to restart their games in either one or a small number of central locations, the NFL continues to proceed under the apprehension that they will be able to play as normal, with teams traveling on a weekly basis and hosting games in their own home stadiums.
Recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci was once again asked to comment on the NFL and its plans, and he raised concerns over the potential for the league to successfully carry out its season under their current plans—that is, allowing all 32 teams to host their eight home games, with visiting teams traveling every week.
“Unless players are essentially in a bubble – insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day – it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall”, he said. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year”.
This is not far removed from comments that he made earlier in the year when he was asked about what it would take to bring sports back—specifically football—in 2020, so perhaps it should not be surprising that his opinion has not changed. At the same time, we also continue to see concerning trends, with another 28,000 new infections yesterday and 747 deaths, surpassing 120,000 total deaths in the United States due to the coronavirus, with over 1.2 million active cases.
Dr. Allen Sills, the league chief medical officer, issued a statement in response to Fauci’s comments. “Make no mistake, this is no easy task. We will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season as scheduled with increased protocols and safety measures for all players, personnel, and attendees”, he said, in part. “We will be flexible and adaptable in this environment to adjust to the virus as needed”.
It is, I suppose, at least mildly noteworthy that he did not dismiss the idea of the NFL ultimately adopting a ‘bubble’ approach, which the league has previously done, even recently. Instead, he stresses the importance of being flexible and adaptable.
Many teams play in states that are currently experiencing a worrying surge in cases, including the Los Angeles Rams, the Los Angeles Chargers, the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Texans, the Miami Dolphins, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Arizona Cardinals, and the Carolina Panthers.
Their states all saw new cases of at least 1700, and up to nearly 3800, just yesterday. It’s not completely absurd to think that some teams may have more difficulty hosting games than others in September depending upon the spread of the virus at the time.