Report: NFL Discussing Shorter 2020 Schedule, Playing Without Fans Amid COVID-19

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2020

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 09: A video display board welcomes Joe Judge as the new head coach of the New York Giants during a news conference at MetLife Stadium on January 9, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The NFL is examining various contingencies should the COVID-19 pandemic force changes for the 2020 season. 

The Washington Post's Mark Maske reported Wednesday a shortened season is on the table, with one person saying the upcoming schedule "is being done in such a way that builds in that flexibility."

Maske also reported the NFL could close off stadiums entirely for fans or only allow a certain percentage of the stadium to be filled.

The NFL provided a statement to Maske while declining to address any specific proposals related to the pandemic:

"As we have said, we are committed to protecting the health of our fans, players, club and league personnel, and communities. We look forward to the 2020 NFL season, and our guidelines and decisions will be guided by the latest advice from medical and public health officials, as well as current and future government regulations. We will continue to plan for the season and will be prepared to adjust as necessary, just as we have done with free agency, the draft, and now the offseason program."

Because of the timing of the coronavirus outbreak, the NFL hasn't been affected as significantly as its peers. The NBA, NHL and MLS suspended their seasons, while MLB and the WNBA have delayed the start of their campaigns.

The NFL had to cancel its events surrounding the 2020 NFL draft and make the draft "fully virtual." The start of in-person offseason activities has been postponed as well.

However, the league hasn't yet been required to make a firm determination about the status of the upcoming campaign.

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President Donald Trump spoke with a group of sports executives, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, earlier this month and indicated his desire to have fans attending sporting events by August or September, per ESPN's Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski.

Dr. Jeffrey Smith, the county executive for Santa Clara County, told ESPN's Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada "a major miracle" might be required for games at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, to be held as usual in the fall.

Smith questioned whether keeping fans away from stadiums is enough to limit the spread of the coronavirus because players and team employees will still be traveling from areas where the pandemic may not be contained.

NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills told NFL.com's Judy Battista that widespread testing will need to be available to provide league officials with the confidence necessary to start the season.