The NFL draft was a need reprieve from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. With that in the rearview, the NFL is forced to look ahead to the approaching season. The NFL released the schedule as planned, which currently includes playing all 16 games at their regularly scheduled time. So far, there are no concrete plans for modifications, outside of bringing international games back to the United States, but many believe games may be delayed, cancelled, or rescheduled.
The Miami Dolphins released some preliminary plans to allow for social distancing for NFL fans, with additional changes like mask requirements. The Falcoholic spoke to epidemiologists who warned that sporting events will be a lot different in 2020, suggesting major events were a major risk to spreading the virus.
Peter King spoke to Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the top members of the Coronavirus Task Force, what he believes the pandemic means for football. The shortened version is that major changes will be necessary but the extent is still unknown.
Asked about the ultimate impact on football, Fauci states, “The virus will make the decision for us.” It is still too early to know what things look like in months across multiple cities. Regardless, it will certainly still be passing through parts of America, if not starting on a second wave.
Fauci points out the logistical problems of dealing with players who become infected. If a player tests positive, they must be quarantined for two weeks. Then teams need to worry if that player infects other players. Games would have to go on without players or rescheduled. Constant testing on thousands of players and support staff will require hundreds of thousands of tests, an amount not yet available.
Fauci worries about major spreading if a player suits up with the virus: “that’s the perfect set up for spreading. I would think that if there is an infected football player on the field—a middle linebacker, a tackle, whoever it is it—as soon as they hit the next guy, the chances are that they will be shedding virus all over that person.” Fans are another problem but Fauci left open the possibility of allowing in some fans as long as they can socially distance.
He believes the second wave expected in the fall should be less disastrous than the first wave. With more widespread testing and hopefully better treatment, the country will not again be looking at nearly 100,000 deaths. The improved response should mean more flexibility for the NFL, but regardless, the league will need to make bold moves to ensure players get to the field in 2020.