The National Football League is growing confident in its ability to play a full season amid the coronavirus outbreak, and a new report says that it could even do so with fans in the stands.
The NFL, like all other major American sports leagues, has reportedly been weighing options for how to move forward with a season during what is likely to be a continued outbreak of the coronavirus. While others, such as Major League Baseball, have reportedly considered options that include bringing all teams to one centralized location, the NFL appears to be planning on a traditional opening.
As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported, sources with knowledge of the league’s plans say there is an “extremely small” chance that the NFL wouldn’t be able to play this year — given that there would be adequate and efficient testing for both league personnel and the general public — and that they may be able to allow fans to come back. Other sports leagues have reportedly considered plans to play in empty stadiums, reducing the risk of transmission of the virus.
“As to the stadiums, it’s also believed that they will be open to fans, with a strong preference for open stadiums from Week One,” Florio wrote, noting that it would not be seen as fair to start a season with no fans and eventually let them come back. “Again, testing for the virus and antibody testing (which will reveal whether a person already has had the virus) will be much more readily available by the time football season rolls around, making it easier for fans who choose to attend games to know whether they have it or whether they’ve had it.”
It is not clear if testing will progress enough by the start of the NFL season — or earlier, given the need for players to be in close proximity for the start of organized team activities and training camps later in the summer. Adequate testing has been one of the major hurdles so far in states starting to lift restrictions and allow some businesses to reopen.
As The Inquisitr reported, the NFL is already planning to move forward with releasing the 2020 schedule, which includes 17 regular-season games for the first time ever. There could be some contingencies worked into the schedule, including the reported possibility that the NFL may flex some games to Saturdays if there is no college football season.