Could an isolated coronavirus-free facility be only way for NFL to play in 2020?

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As the reality of life amid the coronavirus pandemic continues to sink in, the NFL needs to be sinking its teeth into the reality that a normal football season won’t happen this year.

Given the predictions and projections for the ongoing spread of the virus, and in light of the reality that different NFL cities will experience the brunt of the outbreak at different times, it’s not ridiculous to envision all 2020 games being played in empty stadiums.

But even if no fans are present, how will teams be able to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread through a given locker room? It’s inevitable that multiple players will test positive, and that others will end up being exposed to the virus before the players who test positive are quarantined. Entire teams could be knocked out of action if the virus starts jumping from player to player.

So even if the season proceeds without fans in attendance, we’ll have to be ready for a given player or coach or whoever to be out of action for at least a couple of weeks, without warning.

There’s another way to have football. It’s an extreme idea, one that was floated to a G.M. earlier this week and mentioned in the Sunday mailbag and repeated during a visit with WFAN on Sunday afternoon: The NFL takes all teams to a location free from coronavirus, tests everyone on the way in, and then sequesters the entire league for the full duration of the season.

The Premier League reportedly is considering this approach as a way to finish its 2019-20 season. The NFL needs to be considering the feasibility of this approach as a way to play (and televise) the 256 regular-season games and 13 postseason games of the 2020 season.

One possibility would be to find a place literally in the middle of nowhere and build enough fields to play the various games on a given Sunday (and Saturday, if college football doesn’t happen in 2020) and enough rooms to house the players, coaches, trainers, broadcasters, etc. for 17 weeks of football and four weeks of the postseason. Another possibility would be to add to the football facility at the Greenbrier in West Virginia, which currently has 710 rooms.

More rooms would have to be built, and built quickly. More fields would have to be built, and built quickly. Still, if/when the NFL decides that a normal season is an impossibility, this is the kind of approach that could preserve the TV money — and potentially add to it, if college football can’t be played and if the NFL takes over each and every weekend from the weekend after Labor Day through the Super Bowl.

Would it be better if games can be played in the existing stadiums? Sure. Would it be even better if there’s a way to play the games with fans present? Absolutely. Until that becomes a probability/certainty, the NFL needs to be thinking about other alternatives for getting the games played — and for getting them televised.

60 responses to “Could an isolated coronavirus-free facility be only way for NFL to play in 2020?

  1. THIS IS FOOTBALL!!! The lifeblood of our country. A sport in which elite gladiators play through broken bones, dislocated shoulders, torn labrums and concussed heads. A tiny flu/cold isn’t going to keep us down. The leader of our nation wants us back and we will!!

  2. If they did this, it would make sense to shorten to an 8-10 game season with an 8 team playoff. Don’t need to play division opponents twice if the one game is on a neutral field.

  3. You don’t need to build fields etc, just have the stadia complexes isolated with key staff and team housed on site. They can be tested regularly and as they’re all isolated they could safely travel in isolated fashion to each other’s similarly isolated complexes – won’t happen though.

  4. I get it, but think of the blowback if the populace is suffering. It’s logical, perhaps practical, but not sure it’s morally supportable, nor would be received favorably.

    NFL in it’s ivory tower, above it all. And what about the players, coaches, cameramen, sound technicians, announcers in regard to their families? Not sure a 6 month separation from loved ones would be tolerated.

  5. You would have to sequester (no family contact allowed):

    the refs

    the players

    the coaches

    the staff (trainers, water boys, etc)

    What about the guards and stadium maintenance personnel? Would they need to be sequestered, or kept away from the sequestered people? Make sure they don’t enter locker rooms, etc.

    Who will feed the sequestered people? You will need food pre-parers, will all food be delivered?

    It might work but I don’t think many would like it.

  6. I personally think they find a way to at least play and broadcast the games.
    How they resolve that,… I haven’t a clue.
    There’s going to be a lot of people who just don’t want to congregate and this is not going to just stop overnight. But let’s see what transpires over the next month before predicting the worst.
    Many thanks to the healthcare workers, especially in the hot spots.

  7. “A tiny flu/cold isn’t going to keep us down. The leader of our nation wants us back and we will!!”

    This is disrespectful on so many levels.

  8. Testing and vaccines will be readily available and under control by fall. If not, then adjust accordingly. Let’s get through this current crisis. Take care everyone.

  9. I love watching NFL games, but, if the risk is too great, have no problem skipping a season. It is just a game…

  10. whateverwhocaressite says: And the players’ families? This idea is absolutely moronic.
    blizzardwarning says: Not sure a 6 month separation from loved ones would be tolerated.
    Families are already isolated – me & my disabled mom from the rest of the fold, who are also split into 3 groups. Anyway, military families are often apart. I was across the Atlantic once for 8 months back in the day – and my folks didn’t even have a phone then. We wrote a lot.

  11. You are going to mandate that the players, coaches, referees, reporters, announcers, and support crews have to remain on “campus” and never travel for the entire season?

    This idea is just short of slavery. The only think keeping it from being so is the fact that you are paying them.

    It’ll never happen. The season would be cancelled long before this happens.

    If the global economy is still shut down in September, we will ALL have a lot more to worry about than how the NFL will play the season.

  12. Really? Is the NFL gonna put signs up all around the facility, “No Coronavirus Allowed?”

  13. The COVID Kid says:
    You are going to mandate that the players, coaches, referees, reporters, announcers, and support crews have to remain on “campus” and never travel for the entire season?
    Announcers & reporters can stay at home and call it from there. Refs and skeleton staff only. Would you and your family be prepared to separate for 6 months for a million dollars? Mine would for half that and have been apart for longer for a lot less way back when I worked on subs. But again, don’t worry, it ain’t happening anyway.

  14. The lessons for a growing population were evident in 1918 and forgotten in 2020. The bigger risk to the NFL stadiums being empty is affordability after things run their course.Every day we are exposed to viruses and just learning to keep your hands off your face provides the best protection and chance to return to a normal life.

  15. I would guess the cost of doing this would be higher than the lost money of cancelling the season.

  16. They may have to play in an empty stadium and the players may need to be tested every week before playing. It is a contact sport, and that means players can transmit viruses to each other easily by tackling blocking and even when they practice.

  17. Even under that plan all you need is one player to break the quarantine and come back positive and the whole season is over for everyone. I wouldn’t spend $100 million on new fields and assume the players are going to make smart and responsible decisions.

  18. The only solution is a hologram game like Star Wars. Yep – that’s is what we need.

  19. Aha, reality is beginning to set in even for the NFL. Who’s going to attend a game if it could literally cost you your life? or the lives of your family? Are you really going to chance bringing that home to your wife and children? parents?
    Well, some would; plenty of evidence just on this thread. That’s partially self correcting, tho – as in “thinning the herd”.
    But that won’t happen anyway – the league won’t allow it as they’d likely be held accountable.
    I give it 50-50 that there’s any kind of season at all. Way less than that we’ll what we’re used to.
    Wonder what the new CBA says about a cancelled season?

  20. That’s a decent plan Florio. Hope it isn’t necessary. It would be a real treat for America if the NFL season goes forward, and provides that escape we all need. I would think the expenses for this temporary facility could be worked into the federal budget. It would be the best money we ever spent. But the games must go on.

  21. Cancel this season. It is only a game and we will look forward to 2021 even more. (Draft might suck if the college season is not played)

  22. It’s called Hawaii. See how hard it is to convince families to spend winter there

  23. Why would build and go through all that, assuming they can even build all that in time, if they even have to.

    The easiest thing would be to play without fans, just play in the normal stadiums, and make sure each stadium is disinfected top to bottom and is fully clean, test all players, staff, etc to make sure no one infected is coming in, and just take extreme sanitary precautions. Would be easier to disinfect a stadium and field rather than having to just build them.

  24. So many are counting the days and weeks until this is over. Think months. I work in radiology, this is a big country. It will take quite a while to burn across the country

  25. There is 0 chance this happens. The NFL would be better off investing in quick turnaround test kits and playing in empty stadiums. The PR fallout would be an absolute disaster.

  26. One way the season could be unchanged is if we can execute quarantines correctly, actually stay home, and pour money into vaccine development and scientific research that includes the research that doesn’t have an obvious purpose so we can know more about how the world works and hopefully how to deal with pandemics in the future.

  27. A test was approved by the FDA a couple of days ago that can give a result in 5 minutes, but a vaccine is probably at least a year away. The next couple of months are going to be rough, but by the fall it should be possible to use widespread testing to quickly isolate infected people to prevent another large outbreak like this.

  28. What is happening is way bigger than football or any other sport for that matter. When the virus is controlled, sports should continue. Everyone will be fine without sports. This needs to be taken seriously or our country, as we know it, will be negatively impacted forever, and no sports will be the least of our problems

  29. Where are all these tests coming from? We’re currently experiencing a shortage of them nationwide and you wanna test all these players multiple times? Good lord. I love football. I love my 9ers. I’m NOT willing to take much needed tests away from needy places just so I can watch both.

  30. I think the best case scenario this year is a livestream of Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson playing a game of Madden. Of course, the NFL would probably try to make it a hundred dollar pay-per view event.

  31. Football is just a game. Lots of people make their living via the game, not all are players, coaches or owners, in fact most are not, and the vast majority are not millionaires or billionaires, but it is just a game.

    Football is not an essential business, we can survive a season without football. I regret those who may be losing their jobs associated with football, but it is just not an essential business.

    Ultimately cancelling the season may be the only option, we will know more in a couple of months.

  32. Impossible to play NFL caliber D with a 6ft no touch radius enforced. Game day and season records would be smashed.

  33. ” it’s not ridiculous to envision all 2020 games being played in empty stadiums.”


    Yes it is. For the same reason you don’t want large crowds gathering. Smaller crowds of sweaty dudes getting physical with and sweating all over each other isn’t acceptable.

  34. I tore my ACL and MCL two weeks ago. I cannot schedule surgery as there are no elective surgeries until further notice. Football generate lots of injuries that require surgery and medical resources that are in tight supply right now.

  35. This is all becoming less and less important. Here’s hoping it matters again soon.

  36. It’s just football. Cancel the season and keep everyone safe. Live to play another day. This really is a matter of life and death. Keep everyone at home. This really is a case of being safe then sorry. I LOVE football. It’s my favorite sport but we are all in this together but let’s get though this by staying apart.

  37. You can’t make the players do this without a major renegotiation of the CBA that you just passed. You can’t tell players that in order to get their paychecks for next season, they have to agree to basically live in a glass bubble without their families for 5 months.

    You can do it to the coaches, because they don’t have a union, but you can’t do it to the players, or for that matter, the refs, who also have a union.

  38. I am supportive of whatever creative solutions enable an NFL season that carefully avoids spreading Covid-19, and of course, ready to live without NFL football for a year too. This is a kind of war and our parents/grandparents did much more during war efforts.

    Thank you to all health care workers for your tremendous efforts!

  39. This would be incredibly unfair and hard for them and their families. I would not want a season at this cost to others.

  40. Not sure how they could it together in time or if it’s practical.

    Or you look at available facilities that are part of the way there, like decommissioned military bases. They have housing, fields, and airstrips. Plus they tend to be in the middle of nowhere.

    Maybe one for each division if you can find eight viable locations. Get Blank to mobilize Home Depot.

  41. Not sure if the IMG Acadamy in Bradenton FL. is big enough but there are a ton of sports fields there that could be made into football fields. There is a ton of farm land right behind that could easily be made into more fields. Sarasota airport is 10 minutes away.
    The only problem i would see is the amount of living spaces.

    I would think there are other locations across the country like this that may work.

  42. So long as all the players honor maintaining the recommended personal space i don’t see a problem. But it will be boring to play or watch.

  43. Just cancel the season. This might force people to actually re-evaluate what’s important in their life.

  44. So you are going to sequester players and coaches away from their families for 17 weeks during a pandemic so you can play in empty stadiums or makeshift fields?

    Lol. Something tells me that wouldn’t work on a lot of levels, one of which would be the players union would never, ever agree to it.

  45. You think Tom Brady or his teammates want to wait til he is 44? You think these kids are all wise enough with their money, that they won’t miss a year of income? Getting the players on board would be the easiest part

  46. This would be perfect for the Eagles because their secondary was generally keeping 6 ft. social distancing from receivers all throughout the 2019 season. It’s their thing…

  47. Sequestering players and games in an empty stadium is the only way a season will be played. The virus isn’t going anywhere before Fall so nothing will change that allows a season without this approach. Players will be offered the opportunity to accept their multi-million dollar salary or stay home with their families. Most will take the money. Other professions such as oil rig workers, merchant marine captains, etc leave their families for many months at a time to earn a large salary but those amounts pale compared to NFL salaries. Without the sequestration, the season is doomed to fail with a multitude of interruptions, cancelled games, etc. The logistics won’t be easy but when this amount of money is at stake, the powers that be will figure out how to get it done.
    It is not inappropriate to play the season. Our Country needs a distraction from all of the serious things we are facing. NFL weekend games on TV would become a focus for a huge portion of the population. These games would offer a touch of our “normal” lives and greatly help the mental health of our Country.
    Of course the games aren’t “IMPORTANT” but why does everything have to be so serious. We need a break from serious. Monday morning will come all to soon with a return to reality.

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