As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to get worse around the country, the NFL announced on Tuesday that it is sticking to its plan to have a full 2020 season start on schedule. However, multiple team executives from across the league reportedly aren’t as confident the season will start on time.
According to Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, there remain existing doubts from multiple team executives that starting the season on time is feasible. Concern remains throughout the league that because COVID-19 is spreading at different rates in different states, it creates further uncertainty for what teams would even be able to play or practice.
The NFL is doing everything it can right now to stay on schedule. The league’s executive committee voted unanimously to keep the 2020 NFL Draft from April 23-25, despite objection from general managers. The league is also expected to release the 2020 schedule for the regular season in the first week of May.
While the league is doing what it can and expressing optimism for everything to be on schedule, teams don’t seem to share that feeling. Baltimore Ravens president Dick Cass said he expects organized-team activities in June to be canceled. The league itself seems to be preparing for this with ongoing discussion of implementing virtual classrooms in place of practices.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank expressed hope for a full 16-game season, but also admitted that OTAs are canceled and training camp could be shortened. Blank also said that the league might need to consider testing players on a daily basis or having games without fans.
Another potential hurdle for the league could be the NFL Players’ Association. While team owners might want to rush the game back, players could push back if the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t improve and returning to their team puts their health in jeopardy.
The NFL understandably wants to provide fans with the entertainment everyone could use in a time like this. The league generates billions of dollars in revenue each year and that number continues to rise each season. The NFL’s revenue could be even higher this season with the new 14-team playoff format and ongoing talks on record-breaking media contracts.
At a time when the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing and deaths are projected to exceed 100,000, though, the NFL’s optimism might not last for long. If the pandemic doesn’t turn around, the NFL might have to follow in the steps of the NBA and MLB.