One thing that we have read earlier this year about the NFL’s plans for the 2020 season included the possibility for just about everything—except for hosting all teams in one centralized location. Even as other leagues appear to be heading in a direction of focusing on a handful of ‘hub’ cities, the NFL continues to believe it will be able to go ahead and conduct its season with the usual amount of traveling, with every team hosting their own games in their own stadiums.
In order to follow through with that plan, however, it is going to take a lot of trust, from the players, from the teams, with the teams, with the players—with the league. Because players are going to be on their own, as normal, for most of their days.
“It’s impossible to maintain a bubble atmosphere”, admitted Dr. David Sills, who serves as the chief medical officer for the NFL, via Monday Morning Quarterback and Peter King. “And obviously it is crucially important how people take care of themselves when they leave the team environment. We’ll be doing a lot of education in that regard. But everyone is dependent on everyone else in his organization”.
Barring the league opting to force players into hotels for the duration of the season in order to maintain complete control over their environments with regards to contact exposure, there is going to be a lot of personal responsibility involved in the 2020 season going off without a hitch.
Not that the league expects the year to be free of hitches. “We expect to have new positive tests”, Sills said. He also told King that, essentially, they don’t have a plan entirely ironed out right now about how they will tackle those positive tests, saying, “I don’t think we’ve made a final determination there”.
There have been instances of NFL players and coaches testing positive, in isolation. As certain segments of college football begin to return to voluntary workouts, players are reporting to schools, getting tested, and finding out that they are positive.
It’s unlikely that this is going to be a seamless process. The NFL has to be prepared for the potential of star players missing games because they test positive, because that is a very realistic scenario. But the good thing is that they have months of preparation and observation, including watching how other leagues handle the same process.
And then there are all of the things that we don’t yet know to worry about. It’s hard to plan for the unknown, of course, for the obvious reason that it’s unknown. The only way to do that is to have the mindset that your plans must be adaptable.
Hopefully, we won’t have to find out some September how adaptable the league’s plans are. Hopefully, we’re able to play every game in a packed stadium without spreading the virus. But hope is not prevention, nor a plan.