As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage and players voice their doubts about putting their safety — and the safety of their families — at risk, the 2020 National Football League (NFL) season may not happen, USA Today reported on Monday. This week could be a significant test for how, or if, the remainder of the NFL summer training regime plays out and, by extension, how, or even if, the 2020 season is played.
As ESPN previously reported, the NFL has made some changes to the summer training program and preseason. Specifically, the preseason has been shortened from four games to two and various safety protocols have been instituted.
Rookies from the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs are reporting to training camp today, and rookies from the remaining teams are scheduled to report tomorrow. These camps will be a test of whether or not the safety protocols the league has instituted are enough to keep the coronavirus out of the camps and, by extension, the locker room once the season begins.
Already, some players have expressed concerns about playing if it’s going to put their lives, and the lives of their families, at risk. Last week, Tampa Bay left tackle Donovan Smith, whose wife is expecting, publicly expressed doubt about whether or not playing is worth it.
“Risking my health as well as my family’s heath does not seem like a risk worth taking. How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferral of all types of bodily fluid EVERY SINGLE PLAY practice safe social distancing? How can I make sure that I don’t bring COVID-19 back to my household?'” he asked.
Amesh Adalja, a member of the NCAA’s COVID-19 advisory panel, said that at the end of the day, it may be a question of how much risk the athletes are willing to take.
“Eventually it’s going to come down to what is the risk and what’s people’s risk tolerance to do that,” Adalja said.
As USA Today reported, football is the only major sport in the United States to not have its seasons disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL wrapped up its previous season just weeks before the pandemic hit in the U.S., and its next season is still months away.
For now, the league is planning to proceed with business as usual. No major changes to its regular-season schedule have been made, apart from moving a couple of games scheduled overseas back to the U.S.