2020 NFL Schedule Contingency Plans Reportedly Revealed amid COVID-19 Concerns

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2020

In this still image from video provided by the NFL, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the NFL football draft, Saturday, April 25, 2020. (NFL via AP)
Uncredited/Associated Press

While the NFL released its 2020 schedule Thursday, the league still is putting contingency plans into place should the coronavirus pandemic force the league to push games back.

ESPN's Adam Schefter shared the league's plan in an ESPN NFL schedule special, which featured the following tidbits:

  • If games are delayed, earlier weeks on the schedule could be pushed until after Week 17. That means any week on the released schedule could technically turn into Week 1.
  • Super Bowl LV is slated for Feb. 7 but could be moved back, depending on a potential delay.
  • To accommodate for the potential of schedule reshuffling, every team was given the same bye as their Week 2 opponent.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement acknowledging the league has contingencies in place:

"The release of the NFL schedule is something our fans eagerly anticipate every year, as they look forward with hope and optimism ahead. In preparing to play the season as scheduled, we will continue to make our decisions based on the latest medical and public health advice, in compliance with government regulations, and with appropriate safety protocols to protect the health of our fans, players, club and league personnel, and our communities.

"We are prepared to make adjustments as necessary, as we have during this offseason in safely and efficiently conducting key activities such as free agency, the virtual offseason program, and the 2020 NFL draft."

The NFL's current plan is to hold the 2020 season as scheduled with fans in the stands. Those plans run contrary to every major professional sports league in the United States, none of which have resumed or given any plans for fan participation. The NBA, NHL and MLB have each indefinitely postponed their seasons and given no timetable for a return.

Should the coronavirus pandemic continue until fall—likely, considering no vaccine is expected until next year—the NFL will have several logistical concerns. There are more than double the amount of players on an NFL roster than any other major professional sports league.

A league like the NBA could theoretically quarantine its 15-man rosters and their family members together in one locale. That would be impossible for the NFL, which employs 1,760 roster spots, all without considering practice-squad players and large coaching staffs. 

Barring a second spike in coronavirus cases, travel restrictions will likely be lessened by fall. However, the states of New York and New Jersey remain overrun with cases and are likely several months away from anything resembling normalcy. Governors in other states like California and Michigan have been stringent in enforcing stay-at-home orders that could complicate the NFL's planning.

In other words, it's hard to imagine every state with an NFL team being fully open and capable of hosting games by September. Moreover, the NFL will have to consider competitive balance issues that could arise by allowing teams in more "open" states to hold workouts. The league has gone with an "all or none" mantra during this offseason, but it'll be interesting to see whether that changes as the season draws closer.