NFL remains highly optimistic that season will happen, less optimistic fans will be in stands

Getty Images

In early May, we reported that there is an “extremely small” chance there will be no NFL football in 2020. Recent events, culminating this afternoon in a recommendation from the NFL Players Association that players stop practicing together, have sent us back to our sources for an updated assessment.

And there’s good news, even if the news regarding the prospects for football amid a pandemic has felt like anything but good. The NFL remains highly optimistic that the 2020 season will happen.

Less optimism exists that fans will be present for any of the games, however. The temptation to swing the doors open and allow risks to be assumed and reduce capacity where needed with staggered arrivals and departures quite possibly will yield to political and public-heath considerations that could make it more prudent to pass on playing with fans.

While the losses arising from a season without fans would be significant, they would not be staggering. The bulk of the NFL’s money comes from televising games, and this year the games as televised likely would generate higher ratings than ever before.

The optimism comes in large part from the league’s understanding as to how the virus is most commonly spread. Confined spaces, where droplets can hang in the air and invade eyes and noses pose far more problems than open spaces. That’s how the league navigates the potentially awkward juxtaposition of players keeping their distance inside a facility or a locker room and a dog pile of up to 22 bodies in the middle of a football field.

As one source suggested regarding the rash of positive tests among the Clemson football team, the exposure most likely happened in a weight room, where the air is thick and the athletes are breathing heavily as they exert themselves. The droplets have nowhere to go, and then end up going into the mucus membranes of other people. The NFL’s intended protocol will prevent congregations of players in the weight room, or in any other confined space.

The NFL believes its players will comply with rules aimed at keeping them from getting the virus, and that transmission on a practice field or during a game will be minimal. The league still recognizes that it will happen, but it believes that the situation can be managed both by quickly quarantining players who test positive and by having sufficient replacements ready to go.

The league also remains very confident, based on the research conducted to date, that players will not be susceptible to a bad outcome, if they catch the virus. The biggest concern will be players who have undergone chemotherapy, like Steelers running back James Conner. For other players — even those who are morbidly obese or have high blood pressure or are diabetic (whether they know it or not) — the league believes that the players will, for the most part, have little or no adverse consequences (if they even develop any symptoms) because of their age.

For coaches, it’s a different story. Older men who may have had cancer or who have diabetes or high blood pressure will be facing a more significant risk. Some won’t care, even if they should. Others may want to sit the year out, or work remotely (if possible) for 2020.

The league also remains confident that rapid-response saliva-based testing will be available before the season begins. Millions of dollars will be spent on testing, and the league is trying to come up with the most practical procedures for testing frequency. Some believe it must happen every day; the research may allow testing to occur less often than that.

Regardless, even if it currently feels like pro football may return until a vaccine is developed, the NFL continues to believe that the season will happen, even if no fans are present for games.

That’s an encouraging message, despite a stream of recent news items that could make many wonder whether the league will be able to pull it off. The league continues to believe that it will, even if no fans will be present to witness the games.

48 responses to “NFL remains highly optimistic that season will happen, less optimistic fans will be in stands

  1. Yes, despite all the doom and gloom from the commentariat here the season will take place as scheduled. Too much money and too much lead-in time for them to not figure it out.

    The fans are another story.

  2. Logical endpoint of stadia construction and renovation: They remain and should continue to operate as state-of-the-art studios.

  3. This is ridiculous. AT LEAST one player at a facility has tested positive. Fortunately, these are (mostly) young fit men, so hopefully the virus will not leave too much damage. But no way is this virus under control. Not by a long shot. I personally think any talk of a sporting season be it NFL, NBA, NHL whatever should be off the table until Coronavirus is brought under control and effective testing can be carried out.

  4. Everyone wants life to return to normal, but too many people refuse to take this seriously so the virus will continue to spread. It is enevitable that players will contract and spread the virus it is also possible you can spread it prior to testing positive so testing will be inconclusive no matter what the league says. Money does talk so I’m sure the league will push for a season but when the first team has a major outbreak then what?

  5. remain confident all they want, ‘plan’ for screening all you want but i am absolutely convinced there will be no north american team sports in 2020. 0% chance. i would assume they will move the start off the season in jan, 2021 and not cancel it all together, maybe do 14 week schedule? we will see but no chance there will be team sports this year.

  6. I think they start the season but they sure don’t finish it, unless they put these players in a bubble like the nba plans to do. The nfl’s arrogance is pretty comical. They think because they’re so popular that they are literally immune to this problem. Remember: they cancelled the olympics!!!!

  7. If you’re starving for entertainment, then adopt a kitten from your local shelter. The math and science concerning the virus suggests there will be no football or any other sport until we get our act together regarding testing, contact tracing and isolation.

  8. And when multiple players on multiple teams start quarantining for 14 days it will come to a screaching halt. There isn’t an asterisk big enough to tag this season….

  9. How many NFL higher level coaches are:

    – old

    – over weight

    – have health problems

    Do you think they have a higher risk of death or long term damage from Covd19 than the 20-25 year old players? I’d be scared of a 2020 season if I was a coach.

  10. If baseball, the sport with the least contact and half the roster size, can’t even have spring training without outbreaks, I can’t see how a football will. I’m not optimistic in the least.

  11. “I’m still here”

    “And if people keep pretending I’m not”

    “I will still be here in 2021”


  12. @Chiefs Chop Chiefs Chop lol true. the arrogant will get humbled pretty quickly. wimbeldon organizers are known to be crazy arrogant, remember they refused to move the final if england made the final in the world cup (it landed same weekend i believe). even they cancelled their event. NFL will have its day to the wrath of covid soon enough lol.

  13. Today the US had its most infections since May 1st, it’s delusional to believe there will be a 2020 college or pro season.

    Sad but true.

  14. The idea NFL players will be safe during games because they aren’t in confined spaces is a joke.

    What about the chartered plane rides to and from away games? That’s the very definition of a small and confined space with recirculated air no less.

    Some of the newest plane’s filtration systems might be able to filter out the virus, but the vast majority of air craft in service are older and do NOT have that capability.

  15. The states that got hit the hardest, like Jersey (where I live) and NY seem to be recovering while states that were pretty good initially are getting whacked.

    I think that as Florida and Texas start to recover, places like NJ and NY are going to start getting hit hard again.

    There’s no reason to believe that this is going away anytime in the near future. I’ll miss football but I dont see it happening this year…and Im not confident for 2021 either.

  16. Crackers n Cheeese says:
    June 20, 2020 at 4:53 pm
    No crowd means we get to hear the trash talk.

    It will be epic!

    It will be censored. That’s why the NFL wants fake crowd noise. Otherwise you’ll just hear the field audio drop out for half the game as players and coaches swear at each other and use all kinds of language we want to hear, but won’t be allowed to.

    NFL should make a deal w/ HBO max or somebody for pure uncensored games with on the field audio including F-bombs and ALL the glorious trash talk.

  17. I believe the virus has been blown way out of proportion by the government and the media. It has morphed into a political tool. .5% of the population has tested positive. The virus was advertised as being greater than 5 times more contagious than the flu. We were lied to about it and are still being lied to about it. Why? Because it is a great tool for divisiveness. No one wants to downplay a deadly virus, right? The statistics don’t match the fear mongering. Look at the comments here as an example. The fear of this virus is more damaging than the virus. I believe the death rate is overstated by at least 30% as well. States are not counting the deaths of only complications of the virus, many states count deaths of those who die “with the coronavirus “. Why fudge the numbers? We suing China per death?

    Either the coronavirus is no where near as contagious as claimed or everyone has already had it and we have herd immunity by now (or will soon). Something just doesn’t add up.

    Play with fans or play without fans. I will maybe watch the highlights on sunday night. That is all we need anyway. 5 minutes and you can watch a whole game on the internet. 2 hours of your life will net you a whole season of your team’s highlights.

  18. What do you not understand about Covid-19? The numbers and individuals infected are so low because the entire country was shut down in the middle of March. That’s why New Orleans has a fatality rate of 5.2% and Texas is only 2.17%. New Orleans had Mardi Gras and tons of people got sick. Texans just went about their daily lives and didn’t congregate in large numbers for a giant festival.

    Now that they are trying to open things back up again we’re seeing the highest number of new daily infections in a month and a half. 30 people at Clemson became ill and the list goes on and on. That number of people don’t suddenly catch the flu. Even when players on a team have the flu and play, it does not infect 30 people in a given day.

    They dont’ stop NBA games because a player has the flu. They let them play anyway, because it isn’t nearly as contagious as Covid-19 and it also isn’t nearly as deadly.

    This IS 5x more contagious than the flu. Learn what an R-nought value is before you state an opinion on something you have no understanding of. Unless you graduated from medical school your opinion has about as much merit as any other armchair scientist.

    There isn’t one single scientist who is an infections disease specialist that shares your sentiment. Not one! They can’t all be of the same political affiliation. Scientists are just like people in any other profession. They come from varied and diverse backgrounds.

    So the idea that this is some political tool is impossible. If it were, literally every single scientist of any relevance would have to be on board. That implies that they are all members of the same political party, which is literally impossible.

    Additionally, what about the 100k+ dead bodies? In any given year X number of people die on any given day in a particular area. By looking at past years it is very easy to see the increased number of deaths this year compared to previous years.

    We can directly compare the number of deaths in an area on any given day with the number of deaths in that area on the same day in previous years. This year we have seen a very significant increase in deaths compared to years prior. One that can not be accounted for by an aging population or a ‘political tool’.

    That’s how we know that these deaths are attributed to the virus and/or complications arising from the virus.

    What does it matter if someone dies from the virus or the inflammation caused by the virus makes them unable to breathe? Either way they are dead because they became infected and the death is a direct result of the virus or the immune systems response to it.

  19. Sorry. Sad to say – no football in 2020. Wait until practice starts and the COVID cases mount.

  20. We really need to start thinking about canceling everything because of the flu also. People die from that. Also the cold. And we should ban cars too. Because they kill people. Definitely should ban anything electric or anything sharp like kitchen knives or scissors. And fireplaces. Also, because of food poisoning, we need to probably ban restaurants everywhere forever. Safety first!

  21. It is honestly hilarious how I said this exact thing would happen as soon as the schedule came out. As soon as you saw Brady’s opening game on the road in the Superdome, one of the loudest environments in football, any educated person with a clue knew that this was the case. The NFL wants Brady’s toughest road game played right off the bat in front of zero fans to give him an immediate advantage and not risk things improving later in the season where stadiums could allow full capacity. It is truly remarkable how much the NFL rigs things for this cheating fraud.

  22. If it’s about integrity and safety as they always say the nfl will cancel the season. no amount of money is worth the risk of furthering this pandemic all lives matter !

  23. I’m getting pretty close to saying the NFL will pull the plug on 2020. There is no way the virus is under control. Look at what is happening with college football team.

  24. Is there anyone out there who believes there will not be one, single,solitary NFL player who does not die from Covid? WHEN that happens, the season will be shut down.

  25. Angel Valle says:
    June 20, 2020 at 6:40 pm
    If it’s about integrity and safety as they always say the nfl will cancel the season. no amount of money is worth the risk of furthering this pandemic all lives matter !

    You make a great point about player safety. The NFL constantly pretends to hold player safety in the highest regards. Going so far as to stop games in thunderstorms that used to be played regardless. They’ve even changed the rules of the game to protect themselves from future civil liability.

    Despite all of that they fully intend to put players in a situation that they KNOW is dangerous and can not be realistically controlled. One far worse than any traditional kickoff return or onside kick. One far worse than any thunderstorm. At the end of the day the seasons probably not going to end until somebody dies or ends up in a coma. That’s what it’s going to take to prevent the owners from going ahead with their plan to make money at any cost. Including player safety.

    It doesn’t matter how many rules they make to wussify the game. Their true colors are being shown right now. They don’t care who gets hurt or sick, they just want ‘their’ money. That’s all it is.

    I definitely understand other people who NEED to get ‘their’ money to make ends meet or to protect themselves financially. These 32 individuals definitely do not fit into that group.

  26. I just dont see how the players families are going to let Dad go off to work and possibly get a virus. Family 1st.

  27. I guarantee you that if nobody from the Dallas Cowboys didnt test positive everything would be good!!!! I hate it when the league and the media favors Dallas!!!!…8 and 8 after being predicted to be the SB champs??? Makes the so called gurus look super stoopid!!!!

  28. I’m not sure I can even watch the games knowing the terrible risk the players, coaches and support staff are facing.
    Will the owners dare to be waiting in front of the locker room to shake their hands after every game? I’d like to know the owners are all in as well.

  29. Is there a vaccine for every strain of the flu? The answer is NO, not even close. The flu kills more people than COVID 19 ever will… by far. COVID is NOT airborne, sitting 2 feet away from another person, cheering for your team maybe even high 5ing, brings almost ZERO chance of contracting the virus. As long as you don’t touch your face and wash your hands.

  30. Why would they be optimistic. Let’s say 1 player gets Covid. By the standards set forth they will have to quarantine the whole team. They have 2 choices here. Either be real men and play with the consequences or curl up in the fetal position in their basement like sleepy Joe.
    I’m guessing by the time they get through the preseason at least a few guys on every team will have this and they NFL will shut down. Couldn’t happen to a better bunch of people.

  31. This is really unfortunate for the Redskins. Kyle Smith has made it a priority to sign free agents (eg Darby and Davis) and draft kids (Dwayne Haskins and Chase Young) with DC area roots. FedEx would go absolutely bonkers watching the local DMV stars shine in their hometown stadium. The other NFC East teams got a huge break here.

  32. snake19whodey says:
    June 20, 2020 at 8:23 pm
    Is there a vaccine for every strain of the flu? The answer is NO, not even close. The flu kills more people than COVID 19 ever will… by far. COVID is NOT airborne, sitting 2 feet away from another person, cheering for your team maybe even high 5ing, brings almost ZERO chance of contracting the virus. As long as you don’t touch your face and wash your hands.

    Covid-19 is most definitely airborne. If it wasn’t airborne people wouldn’t be wearing masks. Additionally, even with a mask if someone nearby who’s shedding the virus sneezes the droplets are essentially aerosol and are so small they can be absorbed by the mucus membranes in your eyes. If this wasn’t airborne it wouldn’t be a pandemic.

    So you can wash your hands and high 5 all you want. If you walk into air polluted by someone else’s cough or sneeze you will almost certainly get infected, particularly if they sneezed.

    That’s why small enclosed spaces are so dangerous. If you’re in a small room with 5 other people and one of them is infectious, but asymptomatic and they sneeze the odds are you will almost certainly be infected. Even if they don’t sneeze the odds you become infected are high.

    Until you understand what a spike protein and an R-nought value are please at the very least stop spreading terrible misinformation that will get people killed.

    Let’s say a handful of people read your post and agree with you and are equally clueless. If one of those people become infected and die, would that bother you? Obviously you will never know, but what if you did know and your actions led directly to the death of others.

    That’s why it is SO dangerous because people like you can walk around infected with the disease for a minimum of 48 hours without symptoms. Some infectious people can be entirely without symptoms and still pass the virus on to endless others for up to 12 days!!!

    That is why this is so dangerous. If it was like the flu and you weren’t contagious until you had symptoms we could just tell everyone to stay at home if they felt bad and the virus would quickly stop spreading. The fact we shut everything down for 2 months and we’re no better off should be your first clue.

    The problem with Covid-19 is that you don’t have to feel bad to shed viral cells and infect every single person you encounter.

    So maybe you’re one of the lucky people who aimlessly wonder through the world oblivious to the threat of this pandemic and do not become infected. Just know if you continue to do this and the government doesn’t shut things down to protect you then you will eventually become infected. USA average fatality rate is over 5% for people who become infected.

    If you were about to get on a plane and I told you it had a 1 in 20 chance of crashing, there’s no way you’d get on that plane unless you were crazy. Maybe you are young and healthy so that imaginary plane only has a 1 in 100 chance of crashing. Do you still want to fly ‘Air Covid’?

  33. People are still in denial about how bad this really is. The chance that one person having it can easily spread it through the locker room then what? Team will have to forfeit games? I love my football as much as anyone but get this thing under control and then let’s worry about getting sports back. Right now it is isn’t and it’s not going to get better before the season is set to begin.

  34. The world fatality rate is .026% of people infected. If I asked you to bet you life savings, and told you you had less that .05% chance of winning… would you do it?

  35. Media driven hysteria. For the under 50 crowd, the mortality rate is less than the seasonal flu. For 99% of the NFL, the virus is a big nothing burger because of the shape they are in. I just wish the “experts” would come out and tell us what we already know, that they have no idea what they are doing. Now what they NFL should do and what they always should have done is expand the rosters. I can understand not having fans in the stands as that would encompass people with varying possible issues. I don’t think some will stop wishing that there is no NFL season so that people will tune in to them to get their football fix.

  36. Honestly with everything going on in this country at this time who cares if sports returns. People need to go back to work and take care of there families. I honestly feel most americans are spending more time with there families. I don’t think it looks good for sports in our country at this time and this may have a serious effect on fan’s if they decide to ever go back.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.