NFL’s chief medical officer softens the league’s prior message regarding 2020 planning

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The NFL is backtracking on the full-speed-ahead message that it sent earlier this week.

On Tuesday, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said in plain, blunt terms the the league plans to play a full season with full stadiums. On Thursday, NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills painted a more pragmatic picture.

Speaking to Judy Battista of NFL Media, Dr. Sills started with an obvious statement: “I don’t think that I would interpret those comments to say that that is absolutely what’s going to happen.” Dr. Sills is right, because that’s not what Pash said.

Here’s what Pash said, in explaining that the league is planning for a full season: “That’s my expectation. Am I certain? I’m not certain I will be here tomorrow. But I’m planning on it, and I’m planning on a full season.”

Here’s what Dr. Sills told Battista: “I would say that’s everyone’s hope, that we are in a position to do that. But the reality is none of us know those facts for certain right now. We hope and pray for the best and prepare for the worst, realizing that is one potential outcome that we will be back fully in business playing games as normal in front of fans on schedule. But it’s certainly not the only outcome. And I think what was implied there was to say we are not at a point where we are saying that is absolutely not going to happen so we should continue our planning and preparations as if we’re going to be able to do that. But obviously we’re going to have to evaluate that along the way. And follow what the recommendations are from public health officials and from our infectious disease experts and others.”

All indications had been that the league is so focused on the draft that it’s not even thinking about contingency plans for the 2020 season. Dr. Sills’ comments suggest that has changed.

And then there’s this from Sills, which further undermines Pash’s steadfast tone: “As long as we’re still in a place where when a single individual tests positive for the virus that you have to quarantine every single person who was in contact with them in any shape, form or fashion, then I don’t think you can begin to think about reopening a team sport. Because we’re going to have positive cases for a very long time.”

So what needs to happen for a sport like the NFL to reopen? At a minimum, stay-at-home orders will have to be lifted in all states where the NFL does business — or teams in states still on lockdown will have to train and play in a state that isn’t. Also, quick and easy testing for the virus will be critical, since everyone in the facility will have to be constantly tested.

Then there’s the issue of having fans in attendance. Can that really happen without a vaccine? Probably not.

So this is going to be a long, slow process. And the question of whether the NFL will play games this season continues to be unsettled — and it will be for a while.

10 responses to “NFL’s chief medical officer softens the league’s prior message regarding 2020 planning

  1. Exactly. One player with the virus shuts down the entire league. Try to reopen the league after a brief shut down and then another player gets the virus, and then it’s shut down again. There will not be a season. In fact, there may not be a season until an effective vaccine is made which could take 2 years. People need to start adapting to this new lifestyle. It’s not going away anytime soon. You may not like hearing that but it’s the truth. This virus is worse than initially thought because the Chinese government lied to the world about its severity to protect their country from a panic that would have led to food shortages. They welded people shut into their homes. Look it up. Healthy people with active lifestyles are dying from this. It has such a widespread and unpredictable set of symptoms that you cannot take it lightly. The last business to go back to work will be the sporting business. Gonna be a long time before we see a sport. Oh well.

    Ironic, the best way a season could go as planned is to have all the players get the virus and establish immunity (if you can get immunity). That is, if they survive. Otherwise, hope a vaccine is made and/or that current drugs on the market can prove clinical effect.

    I was on the “oh big deal we all get sick” train just a week ago but hearing survivors talk about not being able to breath got my attention.

  2. I’m struggling to see how they fit in a full season, even a half one (no crowds) is looking iffy.

  3. Florio does…see the forest through the trees….”Then there’s the issue of having fans in attendance. Can that really happen without a vaccine? Probably not.”
    A vaccine is our only real effective hope/option to get people back into the stands again.To think otherwise is only a pipedream.

  4. Cowboys sent our ticket invoices out like always.

    Maybe they play all those games?

    I expect a full refund for any unplayed games.

  5. Need to fire Sills. The flu is a communicable virus. We don’t go to these measures for that type of virus. As long as the therapeutic trials continue and monitoring this country needs to move forward.

  6. Playing games without fans is more realistic. Everyone part of the team and organization gets tested 48 hours prior to the game, then is quarantined until game time, then tested again. If anyone turns up positive you would have to cancel the game and try to reschedule later.

  7. Everybody needs to see what has happened in such a short time. If you look at it from the time we banned travel to/from China or when the WHO declared it a pandemic, we are talking about 1-2 months. So, we have testing kits available. The NFL needs to invest in several. Then we find out an existing drug has positive effects on the virus. And there is no reason why they can’t play to empty stadiums. Eerie, yes. Increase the broadcasting revenues to offset lost game day revenues.
    We’re also talking about individuals that are models of health. Like any flu, players will contract it. It’s also contagious, but not as deadly. They can quarantine individuals, as they test positive. This will allow them to get back on the field. The biggest issue will be travel arrangements and lodging. I’m sure city/state officials could help remedy this.

  8. There’s the possibility we have a vaccine by then.
    It’s a reach,… but biotechnology is rapidly working towards getting one completed in record time.

  9. I really dig football. I really miss the Stanley Cup playoffs, as well as the start of baseball. But it’s time to put our lives into perspective and be safe too. We, as a society, must stop this virus from spreading. There will be no vaccine soon. If we don’t heed what the health experts say, following sports in the future will be a moot subject.

  10. There are currently over 9million people who have filed for unemployment, with experts saying it could get as high as 25milloin. I don’t know, nor do I pretend to know what percentage of those are either season ticket holders, or buy tickets to NFL games, but this virus is going to be here for quite some time, so if the NFL does by some miracle gets up and running, and people go back to work, are their priorities going to be to go to football games, or catch up on overdue bills, rent/mortgage, credit cards, utilities, food, and all other things that were put off by the virus? I love football as much as the next fan, but going back to work, that would not be my first priority.

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