The league has considered a variety of coronavirus-related contingencies but consistently has said it is planning to stage a full season beginning as scheduled Sept. 10, with teams playing games in their own stadiums, hopefully in front of some fans. The NFL has sent detailed health protocols to teams but continues to negotiate some key details of its plan with the NFLPA, including the frequency players will be tested for the virus.
The deliberations come while other sports leagues are taking steps to resume but are experiencing issues related to testing and treatment of positive cases. Some college football conferences have announced plans to not play this fall, while others have pared schedules to only conference games. The decisions being made by the college and pro leagues come as caseloads rise in many states.
“We all want to play,” a high-ranking official with an NFL team said. “We all want to make this work. But there are some big issues in some places of the country. That can’t be ignored.”
This week, a person familiar with the NFL’s planning said: “Just look at what’s going on in our country. We are undisciplined as a country.”
The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to many aspects of the health protocols by which teams will operate during training camp and the season, but the sides continue to negotiate issues such as testing frequency, the length of the preseason, the structure of training camp and the rules by which players will be able to opt out of competing.
“As we have stated since the pandemic began, our primary focus is on the health and safety of the public, the players and team personnel,” the NFL said in a statement. “We continue to work with the NFL Players Association and our joint medical advisers to mitigate the health risk to everyone associated with the NFL. We are developing a comprehensive testing program and have rigorous protocols that call for a shared responsibility from everyone inside our football ecosystem. 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. We will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season.”