Report: NFL’s contingency plans include shortened season, empty stadiums

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The NFL’s official position is that it’s planning to play a full season in full stadiums. It’s unofficial position is far more pragmatic.

According to the Washington Post, the NFL’s contingency plans include a shortened schedule and playing games in empty or partially empty stadiums.

“As we have said, we are committed to protecting the health of our fans, players, club and league personnel, and communities,” the NFL said in a statement issued to the Post. “We look forward to the 2020 NFL season, and our guidelines and decisions will be guided by the latest advice from medical and public health officials, as well as current and future government regulations. We will continue to plan for the season and will be prepared to adjust as necessary, just as we have done with free agency, the draft, and now the offseason program.”

Beneath that thin patina of confidence, the NFL is planning for playing without fans at all to playing with some fans to playing fewer games.

As a result, the NFL’s schedule — which will be released by May 9 — is being structured to provide maximum flexibility.

That’s an important approach, and it’s critical that the league anticipate every possible outcome, and that the league have a predetermined plan for every potential permutation. Apparently, the league does.

52 responses to “Report: NFL’s contingency plans include shortened season, empty stadiums

  1. “playing games in empty or partially empty stadiums.”

    Meanwhile, the Chargers are like “We’ve been preparing for this for years”

  2. Since MLB thought about having their teams play in either ARZ or FLA with/without fans for the 2020 season due to COVID-19, what if the NFL did the same? For example, Allegiant Stadium (AFC) and StateFarm Stadium (NFC) would make perfect rivals. Just a thought.

  3. Make it like the Pro Bowl where there’s never any player contact on the field. The ultimate in social distancing LOL.

  4. Yep! The “LA” Chargers have no fans so playing in an empty stadium gives them a leg up as that’s what they’ve been doing the last two years. Not really empty, but mostly all opposing team fans at home. Playing in Kroenke World stadium will be interesting with 10,000 Charger fans in a 70,000 seat stadium. They’ll be giving away tickets to get anybody seated. Jettisoning Rivers in “hopes” of Brady was another disastrous move in a series of bad business mistakes.

  5. For a shortened season you can turn stadia complexes into isolated villages for teams & staff. 2 weeks isolation then 5 games (3 in-div, 1 conf, 1 inter), no wildcards or byes, playoffs and SB take 3 more weeks. Asking teams and refs to isolate for 7-10 weeks is do-able. As they’ll all be isolated from the community they could then safely travel in isolated fashion to each other’s similarly isolated stadia for games. However, I think by the Fall we won’t be in such a major lockdown but just a series of various strict restrictions on stadia, theaters and malls etc.

  6. If no games are played, no fans are present or the season is only 8 games, what happens to the salary cap next league year? If no money is made, how will teams be able to pay players?

  7. Humans lived without the nfl for millions of years, 2 years will not kill ya folks, but the virus just might. Common sense ain’t so common when it comes down to a dollar.

  8. will they offer a new version of injured reserve if a player tests positive then they have to be inactivated for 2 weeks and then come back ? what if the whole team tests positive ? or every QB on the team? will there be forfeits because of positive tests ?

    good luck with that….

  9. I renewed my tickets but…I hope they cancel the season; if they don’t, I’m not going anyway.

  10. You don’t need a stadium if it’s only players and coaches. They could play on a high school field.

  11. The ‘cross your fingers nobody within an organization tests positive’ approach is likely not going to work. They may try to start the season in the late summer if this thing starts dying down but they aren’t finishing it when it likely starts back up in the fall.

    It’s too bad but sports will be the one of the last things to get back to normal. Sports involve traveling by plane, hotel, etc. those are all industries that will be forever changed.

  12. It’s pretty simple, unless you’re watching state run conspiracy TV. No vaccine, no season.

  13. For the record, I say we wait for that COVID-19 to end. Then decide on how games should be played. If the NFL plans to play games with/without fans with that virus going on, it will most likely put players at risk.

  14. If there is no season we will know on Draft Day.The GMS in the NFL will trade or try to trade away there picks for next year Draft.I hope I’m wrong can’t lose NFL season that would be devastating.

  15. It’s gonna be no sports for the rest of 2020. There won’t be a vaccine for AT LEAST another year. I hope I’m wrong, but somebody tell me how we can have any gathering, no matter how small, without a vax.

  16. This is not a more pragmatic approach. This is a more politically correct approach.

  17. I’m not sure that’s preferable to just waiting this out and restarting the next year, frankly.

  18. Projecting your voice expels the virus well beyond 6ft. Dozens were infected ina choir practice. Roaring crowds are not going to work if this thing is still lurking. There was a big soccer match in North Italy leading into their outbreak and like 1/3 of attendees ended up infected.

  19. Their is NOT going to be a 2020 football season, no Governor in his right mind would allow or want to be held responsible for a possible outbreak empty stadium or not.

    It’s time for everyone to accept reality.

  20. I don’t see why the NFL couldn’t just delay the season until they can safely start with fans in the stadiums and fulfil a full schedule? Start in January if they have to, finish in June. Push the next season back to an October start and gradually restore normalacy. It’s not like there isn’t a six month off-season they can’t eat into

  21. The season might start (shortened, delayed, in empty stadiums), but the chance of finishing the season without the virus spreading is tiny. In any case the season will have an asterisk.

    Smart teams should trade away veterans and 2020 draft picks and load up on future draft picks and cap space.

  22. >>Since MLB thought about having their teams play in either ARZ or FLA with/without fans for the 2020 season due to COVID-19, what if the NFL did the same? For example, Allegiant Stadium (AFC) and StateFarm Stadium (NFC) would make perfect rivals.”

    Um…How exactly do you plan on playing eight NFL games a weekend in two stadiums??

  23. Sean Payton has tested positive, and he’s been in self-isolation for weeks. It’s pretty hard, almost impossible, to coach a football team from your basement.

    One player gets infected but is asymptomatic. He could infect the entire team! Once this virus gets in a locker room or on the field, it’s all over everywhere.

    Fans in stands? You have got to be kidding. One infected, asymptomatic person could infect hundreds, if not thousands. And it could be anyone. The NFL is not limited to players on the field or coaches on the sidelines. There are literally tens of thousands of people involved in hosting a football game, from airlines and hotels, to restaurants and bars; pilots and stewardesses; cooks and waiters; maids and cleaning staff, not to mention stadium security and staff. One infected but asymptomatic person in any or all of those groups could transfer the virus to tens of thousands.

    This is not a pretty picture. We are dealing with a pandemic here. Life, as we know it, is over. There won’t be any large gatherings at football, basketball, baseball, soccer, or hockey games for the foreseeable future.

    Just admit it. The 2020 sports season is dead. It’s deader than dead. Live with it, deal with it, because this is the new reality.

  24. Whether fans can attended might be determined state by state, per each state’s governor. Teams that are allowed to have fans in attendance would have an unfair home field advantage. The NFL has to have a policy where it’s all teams or no teams with fans in the stands.

  25. I will say it again. The Doomsayer says more pragmatic. I say it is April and nearly 5 months before the season, we have no idea what things will look like over the summer, and good business people plan multiple moves way ahead to cover all contingencies. So it is not “more pragmatic”. It is an option among many.

  26. Smart teams should trade away veterans and 2020 draft picks and load up on future draft picks and cap space.


    If the league doesnt play this year, they probably put a freeze on all transactions. Contracts will be extended out a year…trade off for paying a players salary who isnt playing.

    If players push back on that, then they probably dont get paid in 2020.

  27. So it’s not safe for fans to sit next to each other but it’s ok for 22 guys (plus referees) to tackle, slobber on, and exchange undesirable body fluids with each other?? These aren’t gladiators who fight to the death. Let’s get back to normal and then proceed with the NFL.

  28. I could see games being played with no fans and in smaller stadiums…even high schools. I mean…if you’re going to play without fans, what’s the point in playing in high dollar venues when revenue will likely be way down?

  29. With no fans paying for their seats, what’s the over/under on how many more commercials the networks will broadcast?

  30. With no fans paying for their seats, what’s the over/under on how many more commercials the networks will broadcast?

  31. Los Angeles mayor is saying there will likely be no concerts or sporting events until 2021 in LA. So where do the Rams and Chargers play? Yet, the great orange one is ready to open back up the country and told sports league commissioners’ he’s ready for sports again. Since he can override a state governor, I’m sure he can override the mayor….can’t he?

  32. We don’t need a vaccine to get back to some sort of normal. We need the ability to test.
    The population of football players are not the make up of those in high risk of having issues with the virus, especially death. We accept this same risk daily for other diseases and activities. Coaches, are another matter, more of them fit the high risk category. Make allowances for the at risk.
    Well before September we will be able to regularly test every individual who ‘takes the field’ in any capacity.
    So with football players health and the ability to test it is viable to play a season. Expand rosters to account for the QB issue and the those that test positive and have to stay away.
    BTW treatment possibles are coming soon too.

    As for fans…. season ticket holders should be given the option of not buying this years package but be able to keep their seats for 2021. People should attend if they like and be personally responsible to not visit with people at risk.

    That’s the missing piece in all this. People complain that after a large gathering they could be unknowingly infected and pass it to a vulnerable person at a store.
    But no one wants to ask why we are not doing more to help the vulnerable not be in public. Why are the vulnerable in stores. Yes everyone can get it. But it’s almost exclusively the vulnerable who die and the vulnerable also dominate the hospitalizations.
    We need to move towards focusing on them. Making it so they do not have to go out. We should serve them, support them, fully protect them. Not having healthy athletes compete does not serve them.

  33. I could foresee a lot of different things happening for a possible 2020 season…

    Season starting late, possibly even as late as January. A shortened season, maybe even 8 games to give teams a 14-day window (virus incubation period) before they play again. Playing in only one or a few stadiums. Or anything in between.

    The one thing I can’t see is games played before full stadiums. Having tens of thousands of people cram into stadiums before there is a vaccine just doesn’t seem responsible.

  34. It’s not 5 months away. Teams report to training camp towards the end of July. If it’s not safe to hold a season, then a season shouldn’t be held. Pretty clear.

  35. According to 90% of the posters on this site, football was going to be dead within 5 years anyway right. Mark Cuban was right etc. Now all of you are freaking out about the possibility of there being no games, yet this is what you all were whining and crying about over and over again that there would be no fan attendance or anyone watching anyway, shows how idiotic you were after all and I never want to see that “Mark Cuban was right” line ever again.

  36. At least I don’t have to suffer through another sub .500 season for my dumpster fire Raiders!

  37. Look, just hook Sean Payton up to and IV and start collecting his blood and inject it into the players so they have defense immunity built up from covid19. Boom, season saved. However, the secondary effects of complaining like a little girl may ensue so, you know, pros and cons.

  38. Are we expecting a reasoned, scientifically valid approach,

    from a league that was never able to wrap its head around the 300+ year old fact that a cold, sealed air-filled container (say, a football) has a lower pressure than it did when it was warmer?

  39. Amazing to me how many people are willing to line up lock stock and barrel and just accept what supposed “experts” tell us without question or rational thought. We have no scientific evidence to prove shut downs are helping. It’s a big guess. People by the millions are still cramming into grocery stores and Walmarts across the nation (just to name two of the countless many retailers still open). Meanwhile we have seen unparraleld economic ruin that will leave hundreds of millions across the globe in absolute shambles. All to stop a virus that you have a 99.94% of surviving if you get it. God help us if a real deadly virus outbreak ever happens. Maybe PFT is just blocking all of us that try to interject a little rationalism into the conversation…

  40. If the league doesnt play this year, they probably put a freeze on all transactions. Contracts will be extended out a year…trade off for paying a players salary who isnt playing.


    The league should postpone the draft and freeze all transactions ASAP. Nobody will be able to train any time soon anyway.

    But they’re not going to do that, so smart teams should limit their exposure and invest in safer assets.

  41. Maybe its me but if football doesnt come back I could care less. Ditto Hockey and baseball. The irony, the thing all these leagues feared and the reason they extended their seasons for as long as possible wasnt just the money it was to make sure people didnt forget them between seasons.
    NASCAR what ends in Oct and Starts in Early Feb? Hockey ends in June and they start pre season in Sept.
    I think there are a lot of people who just dont care anymore with everything being torn up, jobs lost, people dying. This is sports worst nightmare and its for real.

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