The big boss man is never the favorite character, and the NFL is no different. The big boss man in the league is the commissioner, Roger Goodell, who has become synonymous with a chorus of boos, so distinctly that, during an NFL Draft in April with nobody in attendance, they chose to pipe in fan-submitted boos.
With that said, Goodell has been a key driver of this offseason, often behind the scenes, trying to do everything in his power to ensure that a season actually takes place in the most adverse circumstances that the game has seen since World War II forced franchises to merge their rosters and form abominations like the Steagles.
On the eve of the final training camp reporting date yesterday, which applies to the bulk of the NFL, the commissioner penned a letter addressing the fans as he laid out the state of the game and what things will be like—ending it with, “now let’s play ball”.
While it’s a nice touch to round things out with the most important message—that is, it’s time to get going—the key to the entire letter comes above it, in which he emphasizes the importance of himself and his fellow owners being light on their feet as they test uncharted waters.
“Adaptability and flexibility will be needed for the foreseeable future”, he said. “After all, even the best game plan changes as new challenges arise. This year’s NFL Draft is a good example that embracing change can still deliver the fun and excitement we all crave”.
The NFL and NFLPA spent months negotiating about how the offseason, the preseason, training camps, practices, the regular season, the postseason, and even the Pro Bowl would look like this year, as well as a number of other issues.
What we are seeing unfolding now is the labor of a long and grinding process of planning and negotiating—and the work is far from over, as the MLB is quickly realizing. Quite frankly, the passage of time with the return of football will teach the game what it needs to do, or will be able to do. But what we do know is that this will not be the normal we are used to.
“The NFL in 2020 will not look like other years”, Goodell wrote. “Players and coaches will be tested for the virus regularly, including every day for a while. Preseason games have been canceled. Everyone in the team environment must follow rigorous health and safety protocols to keep themselves and each other safe. When there is a positive test, strict regulations will be enforced to isolate and care for that individual and to contain the virus before it spreads. Even the sideline will look different. And, state and local health guidelines will help determine whether fans will attend the games. These adjustments are necessary to reduce the risk for everyone involved”.
Will any fan attend a game this year? That remains to be seen. Will they manage to play every game? That, too, is up in the air. The plans are in place. Reality will dictate whether or not they will be able to fully implement and execute that plan.