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The 2020 NFL season will be anything but normal, if it happens at all

Signs are pointing toward a season with some drastic changes, if the season continues at all.

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NFL has staunchly held onto the belief the 2020 season is not in jeopardy. Just days ago, the league doubled down and said the offseason timeline will not change. Fans in stadiums and even international games are moving forward, despite events surrounding the draft canceled and team officials interfacing only virtually. Even the president weighed in on the matter to team owners, stating the season should start in September with fans packing stadiums.

The governor of California threw some cold water on the idea, noting other countries who have reopened after their peak COVID-19 infection then had a corresponding jump in new cases. He did not sound optimistic that he would open stadiums for public events. The NFL’s chief medical officer essentially said that widespread testing must become available to even consider getting back to business.

Basically, a lot has to change if 70,000+ people will fill stadiums in September.

We looked at the NFL schedule and how that may impact the NFL’s offseason timeline in early March. Offseason workouts were slated to start April 6th for new coaches, with the Falcons planning to start on April 20th. Those are obviously not happening as planned, and the rookie minicamps slotted for early May seem almost certainly to be delayed if not canceled.

Regular season games do not start until September but a lot in the NFL season happens in July and August. While the bulk of this is training camp and preseason games, rookies and injured players will struggle. Rookies will miss out on a lot of programs and training they need to help get up to NFL speed. Instead, rookies may have just over a month to learn an NFL playbook and develop relationships with their teammates. Injured players will miss out on valuable time with team doctors and trainers.

Even healthy veterans will have very real problems getting in NFL shape. Players have extensive offseason workouts with trainers and specialists to work on their craft and get faster and stronger. Now they cannot even go to the gym. There is only so much players can do virtually. Imagine players trying to even maintain their playing strength without access to trainers, gyms, or any training equipment not already in their home or apartment.

Will players be ready for September games even if we optimistically think that training camp will start in mid-July? There is some possibility for the offseason if the NFL can test each employee and player frequently to prevent an outbreak. However, how that process would work two months later with 16 stadiums packed with fans, media, and staff is not just unclear, but to date there is not even a realistic, theoretical plan.

The NFL is obviously hoping for drastic changes in the way COVID-19 is diagnosed, tracked, treated, and prevented. Those solutions are still unknown and do not seem to be ready in the short-term. If the current plan is to open stadiums with fans as scheduled, then NFL games will likely be the site of massive outbreaks.

Short of any major advancements in the near future, there is just no way the NFL season can continue as planned. Delays or playing in empty stadiums appear to be the only realistic options.

Wash your hands.