Arthur Blank speculates that a 16-game season will occur

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Not long ago, the feasibility of a 17-game season was a topic of hot debate. Now, the question is whether a 16-game season is possible this year, given the coronavirus pandemic.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank, with all appropriate qualifiers, predicts that a 16-game season will be played in 2020.

“If I had to speculate now, and I use the word speculate because that’s really all it is, I would say yes,” Blank tells Peter King of Football Morning in America. “Only because it’s so far away from where we are today. I could easily see camps being shorter, players being tested on a daily basis, things of that nature. No fan attendance. Things like that. We may have fewer preseason games, which probably wouldn’t be the end of the world. But I think by September, my hope is by the time the regular season starts, that we’ll be able to bring people together in some form or fashion in a safe manner and play.”

There’s a lot to unpack in that quote. So let’s give it a try.

Shorter camps/preseasons: With no offseason programs and shortened training camps and preseasons, plenty of players may simply not be physically ready for football season. Some veteran players could be in greater danger of being cut than usual, especially given their salaries. Across the board, play could be sloppier than usual in the early stages of the season.

Players tested on a daily basis: This will require dramatic improvements in testing ease and efficiency. It also will lead to important questions about the fates of those who test positive. Will they be barred from the team? Will they count on the roster? Likewise, it won’t just be players who get tested regularly but coaches, trainers, and anyone who comes in contact with the players or the locker room. Once the virus starts to go through a team, it will spread like wildfire — and it could keep some teams from fielding a competitive lineup.

No fan attendance: It’s amazing how something that four weeks ago would have been inconceivable has become so commonly accepted. Given competitive concerns, however, if only one NFL team can’t play with fans present due to the extent of the outbreak in its home city, an argument can be made that no teams should be allowed to play with fans. Thus, it could become an all-or-nothing proposition, which given the current state of the situation suggests that nothing is more likely than all.

However it looks and wherever the games are played, the NFL will surely do everything it can to avoid pulling the plug on the season — especially if that means: (1) no revenue; and (2) an ongoing obligation to pay players. That’s why the league should be thinking of every possible scenario and planning for it, up to and including the extreme and impractical possibility of establishing and maintaining an oversized campus for all teams and critical personnel away from society.

“I do think we need football now,” Blank told King. “It’s hard to turn on any device you have today, almost any site, television, PCs, laptops, phones, without the first thing popping up being something on the virus. And that’s appropriate. However, I also think that people want a diversion. People want to be optimistic. People want to think about things that are really good times for themselves and their families and their loved ones and their communities. I think to have that kind of hope and aspiration mixed into your daily life is important.”

He’s absolutely right. Yes, team owners want football season so that they can make money. But they make so much money because football has become such an important part of the fabric of our shared American experience. They need football to be played, and we all need football to be played.

So, yes, they need to find a way for pro football to happen this year. Which means that they need to be making every possible plan for every possible scenario now, so that when more clarity arrives later this year, the powers-that-be will be able to come up with a viable strategy for getting games played.

40 responses to “Arthur Blank speculates that a 16-game season will occur

  1. They could get rid of the wildcard round for a start, reduce preseason to 1 game, and no mid-season byes either. Not ideal but better than cutting any of the 16 games themselves.

  2. Respectfully, can we just agree that no one knows anything about how this virus will unfold, and we’re not going to know for at least the next 5-6 weeks? It’s okay to say “we don’t know”.

    I appreciate Blank’s optimism, as well as the sentiments expressed in the article. That said, this is still just speculation until we know more. We don’t know if a second wave will be coming after the first, we don’t know if this will spread to every corner of our nation, or just be mostly confined to larger population areas, we don’t know how soon treatments will be ready for widespread use, and most experts are saying that a vaccine is at minimum a year away.

    I hope the season happens, but if this hasn’t cleared up by the time the season is supposed to start, then the season should not happen; the health of everyone involved (players, fans, stadium workers, etc) comes first.

  3. If we are in lockdown come fall football will the least of the things on our mind. At that point the economy will be shut down for near a half a year and starvation will be rampant. No one will have a job to buy a ticket and pay for all the marked up items. All of us will be laid off by that point and laid off people don’t attend football games. Might not afford the electricity to run your TV either.

  4. I can’t see how they can test every player before every meeting, practice, and game. There are 2000 players in the league as it is. Plus you have to test coaches and referees constantly. It’s just doesn’t seem feasible.

  5. Tough spot.. The longer people are away from the game the more they realize that it isn’t that important and many will be lost forever. Look what the NBA and MLB are experiencing. Maybe a season without fans in the stands but still at home watching on tv might be feasable..

  6. As a season ticket holder, I’m currently on the hook and still paying for my tickets. A refund request would (most likely) be scoffed at. It’ll be more like “roll it over until next year.” What good would that do for someone trying to pay bills right now?

  7. Arthur Blank also celebrated before the Super Bowl was over.
    This could be another example of premature prognostication.

  8. “Given competitive concerns, however, if only one NFL team can’t play with fans present due to the extent of the outbreak in its home city, an argument can be made that no teams should be allowed to play with fans.”
    ______________

    Forget competitive balance and just try to imagine how this could ever work. City A is in such bad shape they’re still not allowing public gatherings but City B would be packing people into the stadium like normal and letting in fans from City A?

  9. I think the 17th game is supposed to be played on Neutral Fields, thus not giving some teams the advantage of 9 home games. London & Mexico City come to mind, but with the NFL looking to grow their market I’m certain they are looking at other International sites as well.
    After seeing how jammed the bars with NFL ticket were in Italy last September, I have no doubt there are markets for games in other International Cities.

  10. This is not going to last for months and months. The only reason we are locked in right now is to hold off the spread while supplies catch up to demand. Things will be drastically different in a month. There are companies making 50,000 tests a day starting April 1st. Alternative hospital beds are being allocated as we speak. This virus is fast but overall it is not very deadly comparatively speaking. The Spanish Flu was killing healthy young people within days of catching it. If we are still in this type of social distancing lock-down in September we will have far greater problems than worrying about NFL games. I don’t see that happening.

  11. Not gonna happen, sooner fans realize this, the less disappointed they will be. The training camps will open in September, best case.

  12. arcross12042004scorp15 says:
    March 30, 2020 at 11:05 am
    I think the 17th game is supposed to be played on Neutral Fields, thus not giving some teams the advantage of 9 home games. London & Mexico City come to mind, but with the NFL looking to grow their market I’m certain they are looking at other International sites as well.
    After seeing how jammed the bars with NFL ticket were in Italy last September, I have no doubt there are markets for games in other International Cities.
    Now is not the time to be talking to Cities such as Rome, Berlin, Tokyo or Beijing about a game in 2020

  13. bosslordstanton says:
    March 30, 2020 at 11:06 am
    This is not going to last for months and months. The only reason we are locked in right now is to hold off the spread while supplies catch up to demand. Things will be drastically different in a month. There are companies making 50,000 tests a day starting April 1st. Alternative hospital beds are being allocated as we speak. This virus is fast but overall it is not very deadly comparatively speaking. The Spanish Flu was killing healthy young people within days of catching it. If we are still in this type of social distancing lock-down in September we will have far greater problems than worrying about NFL games. I don’t see that happening.

    —————

    While I do agree with you, with all due respect the Spanish flu was a hundred years ago. Different times.

  14. I could see a massive revolt occur with this league amongst its fans if they still expect fans to pay for season tickets but not be able to attend games this fall. Or the simple fact there are not enough financially secure to even afford such a luxury. And its not like the NFL will just refund peoples money immediately should the season be cancelled, for years they’ve tried new an inventive ways to extort it from the fans.

    If you have no ticket sales you cant pay players. If you cant pay players they’ll revolt too. And if you have no attendance there’s no money made at the actual games themselves. The whole system could collapse and you may have people too terrified to even enter a stadium for years possibly ever again without a vaccine.

  15. Blank was asked a question and he answered it with all necessary qualifiers.

    I can’t see the harm in expressing optimism in his situation. I sure hope he’s right.

  16. I do not think that playing games in empty stadiums will provide a compelling viewing experience for the fans at home watching on TV. The ratings are going to be terrible.

  17. No fan attendance might not be that big of a deal, considering they would pump crowd noise into the stadium anyways.

  18. xlivsaints says:
    March 30, 2020 at 10:48 am
    As a season ticket holder, I’m currently on the hook and still paying for my tickets. A refund request would (most likely) be scoffed at. It’ll be more like “roll it over until next year.” What good would that do for someone trying to pay bills right now?
    _________________________________

    Simple fix = don’t pay for them then! And when a whole lot of others don’t pay for their season tickets either guess what, it’ll sink in and the teams will finally “GET IT”.

  19. Once they find a treatment that will make the symptoms more manageable things will get back to normal. They probably already found the treatment it just hasn’t gone through the battery of tests required to ensure a high level of success rate.

  20. We all need to combat this virus and worry about sports later if their isn’t a season life will go on.

  21. Steve Erkel says:
    March 30, 2020 at 12:52 pm
    Brady may never play a game in a Bucs jersey.
    ———————

    Will be interesting to see what Brady and the Bucs do if they do cancel the season. Do the Bucs bring him back at age 44? Does Brady just call it quits?

  22. Not having a 2020 season is about the only way Dan Quinn keeps his job. How he is still employed is a mystery.

  23. There’s ZERO to speculate about it’s going to happen. This shelter in place is going to be OVER by May 1st, so there’s no reason to cancel anything – FACT

  24. Hopefully this is done by summer and miss some mini camps. Won’t be a big deal.
    owners would let a whole stadium get sick before they lose a dime.

  25. Worse case they could easily start the season in October and play the SB in March. Not a big deal.

  26. Whenever they say it’s not about the money, it’s only about the money!! Of course this billionaire thinks this!

  27. have a silly dos-based baseball game…set up a league with great teams from 59’s and 60’s…having a ball with it…plan on doing the same type leage (50’s and 60’s)with the nfl…life is good…

  28. If the consensus ends up being that it is likely to return in the fall, then I don’t see how a season goes on.

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