We are less than two months away from the scheduled start for NFL preseason, but that is hardly a guarantee given the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the United States. There have been more than two million confirmed cases and over 120,000 deaths, and many states are experiencing surges in both positive cases and positive test rates.
The NFL’s offseason has obviously been impacted by the pandemic, and several players and staffers have tested positive for the virus, but the league intends to run this season on schedule.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci recently warned that we may not see football at all this season, and he cautioned that football in the fall may not happen unless we see a “bubble” akin to what the NBA is attempting to do in Orlando.
“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Fauci said (via ESPN). “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”
Of course, with Florida among the states hardest hit by coronavirus in recent weeks, the NBA’s “bubble” may as well be this.
NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills wasted little time in responding to Fauci’s comments.
“We are developing a comprehensive and rapid-result testing program and rigorous protocols that call for a shared responsibility from everyone inside our football ecosystem,” Sills said. “This is based on the collective guidance of public health officials, including the White House task force, the CDC, infectious disease experts, and other sports leagues.
“Make no mistake, this is no easy task. We will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season as scheduled with increased protocols and safety measures for all players, personnel and attendees. We will be flexible and adaptable in this environment to adjust to the virus as needed.”
We’ll keep close tabs on this story, as while the NFL is king and the biggest money generator out of all American sports, the impact of the pandemic on the United States has (among other things) put the immediate future of team sports in considerable doubt. I personally do not see a way for college football to return this year, especially seeing a slew of universities deal with positive cases among players, and the fact that college football is obviously much bigger than the NFL in terms of number of teams.
In the meantime, be safe everyone.