Summer unofficially has begun. Days after summer unofficially ends, the NFL season officially begins. The league remains determined to play all 256 regular-season games. And, for now, to do so in full stadiums.
“We are planning to have full stadiums until the medical community tells us otherwise,” NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent told Brian Mitchell Friday on The Team 980, via NBC Sports Washington. “Now, remember when we’re talking — we’re talking about September, August, September. So there’s a lot that can happen here. So we’re planning for full stadiums.”
This public statement meshes with what we’ve been hearing privately for weeks, that the league believes circumstances will change sufficiently by September to allow both for games to proceed and for fans to attend them. From advances in diagnostic testing to advances in antigen testing to a better understanding of what it means to test positive for coronavirus antibodies, it’s entirely possible that anyone who chooses to show up for games will be permitted to do so.
This doesn’t mean the plans are set in stone.
“We also know that we have to plan for half stadiums,” Vincent said. “Three-quarters. So we’re planning for all of these different scenarios. But first and foremost, we’re making every effort, working with the medical community, if we can have those stadiums with all people until they tell us otherwise when that time comes, that’s our plan. That’s our plan of action.”
With $5.5 billion hinging on stadiums being occupied, it makes sense. And with the national mood swinging away from extreme measures to control the spread of the virus and toward allowing individuals to assume the risk of catching (and disseminating) the virus while also stoking the economy, it’s a scenario that in just a few weeks has gone from being inconceivable to plausible.
So, yes, the plan is to play the games and to allow people to fill stadiums to watch them. Although the weeks will fly by quickly from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the medical advances quietly but surely happening out of view will quite possibly allow football season to proceed as normal, even at a time when things don’t still don’t feel anything close to normal.