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Questions surround this week’s NFL schedule release

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What will football in 2020 look like?

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Later this week, the league will announce plans for all teams to play a full 17-game schedule. At this point in the year, why not plan for everything to be back to normal?

Will there be fans in the stadium? Broncos season ticket invoices were emailed out as usual to all ticket holders shortly after the 2019 Super Bowl. Outside of a lonely email from the ticket office assuring jittery ticket-holders that they could credit missed games to future ticket purchases (or get a refund), there has been no discussion of what impact COVID-19 would have on fans ability to actually attend games. Will there be reduced fan attendance? Games played with no fans? Nobody knows. It’s hard to fathom that the Denver Broncos or the NFL would take on the liability of having 72,000 screaming fans packed shoulder-to-shoulder all screaming and breathing on each other in the midst of a pandemic.

Will the players be sequestered together, away from their friends and family, to play the season? At first, I thought this might be a great idea. Then you think about the numbers of people involved and the idea gets unwieldy. Sure, you could possibly isolate the entire team, but before you could even begin to get them together, you’d need to have every player in the league self-isolate (from even the people in their own home) for two weeks. Now consider that coaching staffs, trainers, the practice squad, and support staff would also have to do this just to begin associating with one another.

Say someone gets hurt in training camp, to bring someone else in to compete, they too would have to isolate for two weeks before being allowed to even claim a practice jersey.

While it could work in theory, at that kind of scale there are going to be folks who simply refuse to do it. Don’t believe me? Remember William Hayes, the Los Angeles Ram who didn’t believe in dinosaurs? You going to trust someone like him or any other lonely 22-year old player from hooking up with some random Grub Hub delivery driver with a dry cough? All it takes is one person not to take it seriously and everyone is suddenly at risk.

Then there’s the issue of players, coaches, and staff probably not being all that excited about not being able to see family members or friends for 5 months while football is being played. Think of the typical amounts of births, deaths, and other family related issues that draw down on the players during any given season. There’s a lot to consider since the football season goes on for long time, even longer when you’re away from your small children.

So why release the schedule at all? It’s an interesting time for the NFL to release the schedule. As the death rate continues to climb, likely surpassing 70,000 sometime on Monday, and as infection rates at best remain steady, it’s hard to believe that things will magically be solved in all major NFL cities to the point where they can play the traditional brand of NFL football we all know and love.

With so much money at stake for all involved, it’s the NFL’s responsibility to plan for a successful season. It was this kind of thinking that netted the NFL their best-watched draft in the history of televised common drafts. As the pandemic progressed, the cockamamie idea of gondolas delivering draft picks to the podium in the middle of the Bellagio fountain was still the plan... until it wasn’t. I imagine the season 2020 will be also be tweaked and amended on the fly, as the draft was.

Until we know we are riding the downward trajectory of this virus, I’ll appreciate the NFL’s optimism, but also take it with a grain of salt.

HORSE TRACKS

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