Cool Schedule Release, Bro. But Here’s What The NFL Really Will Look Like

John P. Lopez
May 12, 2020 - 9:17 am

(SportsRadio 610) -- We loved it.

We ate it up like the sports-starved wretches we are, because it not only offered us football, but some semblance of normalcy and business as usual.

Good for the NFL. Good for Roger Goodell. But let’s not start sucking each other’s Jell-O shots just yet.

When the NFL in fact does resume, it is becoming abundantly clear that the schedule released last Thursday to all the expected pomp and circumstance will be little more than a fond memory.

With Covid-19 still so unpredictable and unprecedented it can infiltrate numerous staff members at the White House, you think the league will in fact conduct business as usual come Sept. 10?

The answer is no. No way, no how.

Even though as recently as a month ago, a league executive vice-president said the NFL’s entire focus has been, “a normal traditional season, starting on time,” the league knows better.

They all do.

While mostly kept under wraps with the hope that normalcy does in fact magically return by Sept. 10, the league has been cobbling together a number of contingencies that are more the reality.

And when that reality is announced, it likely will look something like this:

  • Training camps will not begin in earnest until Aug. 15 at the earliest. Multiple teams reportedly already are making plans to move training camps to states that relax Covid-19 restrictions earlier than states in the Northeast and West Coast. The league simply will not allow some teams to open facilities and begin preparing for camps before others. In order for camps to open at roughly the same time, facilities at major universities in the South and Midwest likely will be used. That contingency would take time to align and just makes the most sense, since elite college facilities have multiple fields and training facilities available. Schedules can be rearranged for college programs to use the facilities as well as NFL teams. Also, proper coronavirus testing and cleaning and disinfecting measures can be taken at centralized locations where there are no students and crowds.
  • The preseason will be reduced to one, perhaps two games, if at all. With training camp moved back at least two weeks, it only stands to reason that meaningless games will be lopped off, particularly since preseason game revenues are largely kept by respective teams – that is, no revenue sharing. With no fans in the stands – and there will most certainly be no fans allowed into stadiums – the risk-reward for teams is too much.
  • The NFL season will start, at the earliest, Oct. 1. Perhaps Oct. 15. The NFL cherishes its relationship with its de facto minor-league system, college football. It benefits from aligning its schedule and calendar as best it can with the college season. With the 2020 college season likely not starting until students are allowed back on campuses, the best-case scenario for that to happen is October. At best.
  • At least four early-season NFL games will be rescheduled or canceled altogether. If rescheduled, they will be pushed to the back-end of the schedule. Bye weeks will be eliminated in the regular-season and the post-season (i.e., that means there will be one week before conference championship games and the Super Bowl). This already has been widely reported and is the most likely possibility.
  • A number of NFL teams, particularly on the West Coast and in the Northeast, will play up to half of their home games at neutral sites in states with more relaxed Covid-19 restrictions. Las Vegas could well be the home stadium for California and Washington state teams, with Saturday games scheduled. East Coast teams similarly will begin the season playing home games in states with relaxed restrictions.
  • Fans will not be allowed into stadiums, at minimum, until December, if at all. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s infectious disease czar, sounded an ominous alarm in comments to NBC’s Peter King this week.

If we let it just go and we don't have a good response,” Fauci said, “you can have an outbreak somewhat similar.”

With an estimated 200,000 coronavirus tests necessary just for NFL players and staff to enter facilities across the league, for now it appears almost impossible to adequately test 70,000 fans per-stadium on any given Sunday. Particularly considering fans leaving stadiums to return to all corners of respective communities, it’s highly unlikely stadiums will host fans again until 2021.

The good news is, of course, the NFL season will be played. It will look different and feel different, but definitely will be played.

Just tap the brakes on downloading last week’s schedule onto your calendar. That was fun. But that won’t be the schedule.

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