- The National Football League is hopeful that they will be able to play a full regular season despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The league has already canceled the August 8 Hall of Fame Game.
- Due to the difficulty in player conditioning this Summer the preseason game schedule has been cut from four games down to two games.
- The NFL is reportedly considering the possibility of canceling preseason games entirely.
The NFL hasn’t said much about how they’re going to play the 2020 season despite the myriad issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve publicly remained optimistic that a full season can be played though privately they insist that they’ve got a ‘variety of contingency plans’. One plan has already been put into place–the NFL has shortened its preseason schedule from four down to two games.
The announcement of the truncated preseason schedule wasn’t a huge surprise. The schedule reduction had been floated all over sports media and it became a realistic possibility following the cancellation of the August 8 Hall of Fame Game. More specifically, the league has canceled Week 1 and Week 4 of the preseason. The schedule will be reconfigured even more to make sure that each team plays one game at home and one on the road. The logic of this move is sound–since most players have been unable to practice this Summer the league now has afforded teams nearly a month between the start of training camp on July 28 and their first preseason game August 20 through 24. As any experienced NFL betting enthusiast can tell you, Week 4 of the preseason is downright useless with starters playing little if at all.
Keep in mind that this plan is tentative at best and the option is still on the table for the NFL to cancel the entire preseason schedule. It’s unclear exactly under what sort of scenario this would be done. The schedule reduction has to be approved by the NFL Players Association but even if they have issues they’re aware that they need to get the framework of a deal in place within the next week if training camp is going to start on time. The NFL and players union have plenty of issues to work out–reopening team facilities, testing schedules, quarantine requirements, etc. The NFLPA has a conference call scheduled for Thursday though there’s no indication that any serious work will be done before Monday due to the Fourth of July holiday.
The league has announced a few modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic. In an effort to keep players healthy and most importantly virus free they’re going to require that teams not allow fans in the first six to eight rows of seating in every stadium. To allow the teams to recoup some money and to avoid the ugly optics they’ll be covered by tarps on which franchises can sell advertising. For this year at least, the NFL will allow teams to sell advertising that will be visible on television. You can’t imagine how much I’d love to see a big Fanduel or BetFred logo on the tarps at Denver Broncos games. This all assumes that fans will be allowed to attend games at all. There’s also the possibility that even if fans are allowed that teams will have to accommodate them with reduced capacity. Another change for this year is that teams will be allowed to set their own stadium capacity in accordance with local regulations and pandemic abatement protocol. This also could mean that some teams might not be able to play with fans in attendance while others will.
Of course the NFL is aware of all the legal ramifications of playing in the midst of a pandemic which is why they reportedly are considering requiring fans to sign a coronavirus liability waiver. There are other mandates on the table including a mask requirement and requiring that every stadium go ‘cash free’ with concessions. Some changes won’t be seen by fans–more social distancing in the locker room and limiting the number of players in workouts. The most essential component of the NFL’s contingency plans will be rigorous testing and stringent health and safety requirements of their players. Players will be tested multiple times per week and there’s the possibility that team personnel will be asked to quarantine at home for two weeks before the start of training camp.