The NFL is planning to move forward with the release of its preseason and regular-season schedules next week despite widespread uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"If we have to make adjustments, we will be prepared to do so based on the latest guidance from our medical experts and public health officials and current and future government regulations," spokesperson Brian McCarthy told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The NFL's schedule release plans are at odds with nearly every other major sport in the United States. The NBA, NHL and MLB have each indefinitely postponed their respective seasons and have given no timetable for a return.
While some states are beginning to reopen on a limited basis, it's expected to take several months for life to return to normal—particularly in regard to large gatherings like sporting events.
The league is basing its plans on the 2020 season going ahead without interruption, including with fans in the stands.
"We plan to start on time," McCarthy confirmed to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
Perhaps more than any other league, the NFL has several logistical problems to consider if the coronavirus pandemic lingers through summer or continues wreaking havoc on sports. Whereas "bubble" ideas for the NBA and MLB have been floated, that would be an unwieldy proposition for a league that has 55-man rosters, dozens of coaches and trainers and more serious injuries than other sports.
There is also a practical matter of there being few if any areas in the country that could house 16 regular-season games on a weekly basis.
Playing without fans with a regular travel schedule may be more feasible in the coming months, but the NFL appears to be preparing for an absolute best-case scenario.
It seems borderline impossible to imagine states like New York and New Jersey being fully open to the point the NFL could conduct normal training camps in those areas.
Nevertheless, the schedule release continues a leaguewide plan to conduct business as normal. Free agency and the draft went off without a hitch because they were capable of being done virtually, but the league is probably looking at more snags in the immediate future despite its best intentions.