When it comes to sports, this year was – and still is – highly irregular, to say the least. The ongoing pandemic has had a huge effect on sports all over the world – entire seasons were delayed or suspended, some even canceled outright, and even the Summer Olympics was postponed to 2021. It is the second time the summer games held in Tokyo are disrupted by a global crisis (the first was canceled due to World War II).
Football was one of the lucky sports – for the NFL, things will be pretty much business as usual. Of course, it will be held according to the new normal, with the health and safety of the players, staff, and fans will have to follow the games from home.
Thanks to modern technology, though, their experience will likely be even better than virtual sports – they’ll have the chance to see everything better than they would sitting in the stands.
No bubble for NFL coaches, players, and staff
The NBA and the NHL decided to play all their games in isolation – in bubbles, as they are called. The NBA has effectively moved into the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida, together with its entire player base, staff, officials, reporters, chefs, and even barbers from all over the country.
The conditions are strict – leaving the bubble is pretty much prohibited, and those who leave have to isolate for more than a week and produce two negative tests before returning to play. The NHL’s two bubbles are equally strict.
The NFL will, in turn, not resort to isolating the entire league in a bubble – players and coaches will have access to their local communities while observing strict rules while at team facilities and stadiums. They will also need to avoid any high-risk activities in their communities. Basically, what baseball previously did and failed at, but that’s a story for another time.
Strict protocols for the NFL in 2020
The NFL has published strict protocols that players and teams have to adhere to once football returns to the field. These protocols cover everything from who can access which of the clubs’ facilities, how physical distancing has to be maintained, how often the facilities have to be disinfected, and how – and how often – each room has to be cleaned.
Players and other employees are not reassured by these strict protocols, though. Some NFL office workers have refused to return to the league’s Manhattan HQ because they consider the reopening has come too soon. And the players’ union was keen to remind the league that many players fit into an “ar risk” category – and they, too, have families to worry about.
The League, in turn, is confident that the NFL can resume operations and proceed with the season as planned. Or, as NFL Chief Football Administrative Officer Dawn Aponte put it, “Everything that we’re doing, we’re committed to limiting the risk for all those involved in the game. As we continue to work with experts and government officials, you’ll see the guidelines are based on mitigating exposure wherever possible”.