The NFL remains cautiously (and perhaps cockeyedly) optimistic about the prospect of offseason programs happening in 2020. The more realistic view is that they won’t.
“I just don’t think the OTAs are going to happen at all,” Ravens president Dick Cass said, via the team’s official website. “I hope I’m wrong. I’m hoping we can get some players in [the facility] in June, but I’m sort of doubtful of that.”
His assessment is reasonable. As the COVID-19 virus continues what will be a likely migration through most if not all of the 50 states — and an inevitable spread through all major metropolitan areas — different locations are in different stages of the epidemic. It could take months before all hot spots have cooled to the point at which football practice safely can happen.
Teams are assuming an NFL season will be played. It’s unclear when it will begin, and there’s a chance that it won’t happen at all.
“It’s really hard to know about long-term impacts,” Cass explained. “A lot of that is going to depend on how long the stay-at-home order remains in effect. If it lasts a long time, it could have obviously an effect on our season. No one expects that, but you just don’t know. . . . We are going about the business of continuing to spend money on players. We’ve been active in free agency and other teams have [too] on the assumption we’re going to have a full season.”
Even if there’s a full season or something close to it, it’s hard to imagine full stadiums throughout the country. Perhaps the games will be played for TV only, in otherwise empty venues. Some teams, based on the realities of a local outbreak, may not be able to play home games at all.
Whatever the outcome, now is the time for the NFL to anticipate all potential developments and to plan for each of them, up to and including the possibility of having no football season at all.