UPDATE: Long-time NFL writer Gary Myers is hearing the NFL is planning on having a full 16-game season, but they are discussing the possibility of a delay to start the season.
According to a high-level source this morning: The NFL right now is planning on having a full 16-game season. It has not discussed contingency plans with the teams. One possibility that could emerge is delaying the start but still getting in 16 games. Real football in March?— Gary Myers (@GaryMyersNY) March 31, 2020
As the NFL Draft appears to still be going on as planned — albeit remotely, like much of our lives now — the NFL season is still a question mark as the coronavirus continues to spread across the nation. Two recent interviews give us some insight, but we are still in speculation mode, as nobody has a good grip on if the U.S. can flatten the curve of the viruses extreme growth and how soon until it has run its course.
NFLPA medical director Tom Mayer says in an ESPN interview that he’s optimistic the 2020 season will take place. The NFLPA has put together a team of coronavirus experts, including “members from Harvard, Duke, Johns Hopkins, the CDC, the White House, the state department and the office of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,” for consultation on how to proceed.
Mayer says OTAs likely won’t happen, but a return for training camp is more likely. Mayer goes on to say, “a return by training camp would likely be based on a model in which the country was shut down for four months.” But, it has yet to be seen that the United States can be “shut down” for four months. Of course, Mayer also says, “I’m optimistic by nature. We’re smart people in America, and I think we can get this done.”
In another interview, Dr. Zach Binney, who has a Ph.D. in epidemiology and wrote his dissertation on NFL injuries, was on Buffalo Rumblings’ Nick & Nolan Show discussing the NFL timeline. They didn’t have the rosy outlook that the NFLPA medical director had, but were not fatalistic.
Dr. Binney believes, “if football is coming back, two things need to happen: One is we need to be really really disciplined about social distancing right now so we can get into the rebuild and then it will probably need to happen without fans. But could we have the NFL on the TV in the fall — without fans in the stadium? It’s possible, if we are good about what we need to do right now.”
There is no doubt that playing games without fans is the best way to go about the NFL season with the coronavirus still a problem. And, until there is a vaccine, that may be the only way sports can be watched, but that depends on how well social distancing practices are implemented and work.
Dr. Binney says, “Right now, I’m nervous that we’re not doing enough. We’re not staying home as much as we should. We don’t have a national shelter-in-place order. All of these things that are really really important. The NFL season is definitely in jeopardy.”