COVID Nixes NFL Preseason
Cancel culture has taken many different forms in 2020 with the most recent casualty being the elimination of the four preseason games which usually signal the onset of the NFL season. The month of August will be devoid of watching high profile rookies playing alongside undrafted free agents vying for a coveted spot on an NFL roster. Each year fans look forward to watching the teams take shape as cuts are made and rosters are whittled down. But that won’t be happening this season as the global pandemic claims another victim.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote, “The NFL in 2020 will not look like other years. Players and coaches will be tested for the virus regularly, including every day for a while. Preseason games have been canceled.”
And so, it goes. Thus far, professional football has been the least affected of the four North American major sports leagues. If all goes as planned, the 17-week regular season and ensuing playoffs will go off without a hitch, assuming of course you don’t consider empty stadiums a hitch. Speaking of fans, or lack thereof, the decisions on how to proceed will be made by each team in conjunction with state and local approval. It appears as though some teams will allow 20 percent capacity while others will ban fans entirely from entering the stadiums.
It’s a dynamic, ever-evolving situation for NFL ownership and one that has yet to manifest in any concrete decisions regarding fans in the stands despite the regular season less than a month away. Ravens president Dick Cass stated, “To offer a proper level of safety for fans who want to attend games, a reduction in capacity is necessary. We are disappointed that this will be a disruption for many ticket buyers, but we have an obligation to our fans and our community to keep M&T Bank Stadium as safe as possible.”
How severe that reduction is at M&T Bank Stadium is still unknown. But let’s understand that fans or no fans, the NFL has even more incentive to play now that many of the D-1 college football conferences have decided to forego the season. Imagine the opportunities that abound for the NFL if college football is canceled entirely. The fall would be the NFL’s for the taking without its chief rival to steal any of the spotlight.
We could easily see triple headers on Saturday, in addition to Monday, Thursday, and Sunday games.
Agents Believe NFL Season Will Start on Time
With all due respect to college football, enjoying a full season of the NFL would be the cure that ails all of us aching to see action return to the gridiron. “In a year that has been extraordinarily difficult for our country and the world, we hope the energy of this moment will provide some much-needed optimism,” wrote commissioner Goodell, and you don’t have to necessarily like Roger to agree with every single word of his statement.
Goodell further elaborated on the testing protocols for the 2020 campaign, “When there is a positive test, strict regulations will be enforced to isolate and care for that individual and to contain the virus before it spreads,” Goodell wrote, adding that the league and individual franchises will work in concert with state and local COVID-19 guidelines to determine whether fans will attend games this season.
The Athletic polled 30 NFL agents and asked them, “Do you think the regular season starts on time?” The results were 90 percent in favor of the league kicking off as scheduled on Thursday, September 10th in a game between the Houston Texans and defending Super Bowl champion, Kansas City Chiefs. But then again, it’s not the start that’s concerning us, it’s the finish. With a little luck, the granddaddy of professional sports will be alive and well this season…but let’s keep our fingers crossed, just in case.