Commissioner Roger Goodell could be given latitude to make judgments about how to proceed if a crisis arises as the NFL attempts to operate during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer, said during a phone interview Monday that any such decisions about shutting down the operations of a team or the entire league would have to be made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the NFL Players Association, infectious-disease experts and public health authorities.
“I can tell you that we, again, recognize that we’re going to need to be flexible and adaptable, and we’ll have to evaluate those scenarios as they develop,” Sills said. “The good news is we’ll have an enormous amount of data from our own testing program and certainly tracking our own cases and our results and our close exposures with the tracking devices that you’ve heard about.
“I think we’ll take all of that data and we’ll get together with the best experts we can find, and at every point along the way we’ll make the decision which not only is safest for our players, coaches and staff in the NFL, but what’s the most responsible thing to do as members of the broader health community. I think we’ve been very clear from the outset that we don’t want to do anything that in any way is a negative factor on the public health situation, either in our communities or on the country as a whole.”
Sills said Monday that he remains “cautiously optimistic” about the season but he realizes “this is going to be hard.” Veteran players for most NFL teams reported to training camps Tuesday.
Goodell wrote Monday in a letter to NFL fans that the league and NFLPA hope to play “a healthy and complete 2020 season.”
The league consistently has stated its goal for the regular season to begin as scheduled Sept. 10 and proceed uninterrupted, while also saying it will adjust if needed. The regular season schedule the NFL released in May appears to make allowances for the possibility of the season being disrupted by the pandemic.
After the league and the NFLPA agreed to health protocols, they struck a deal Friday on economics by which players would be paid prorated portions of their salaries if the regular season starts but cannot be finished. Team owners mulled the possibility of shutting down training camps if such an agreement on economic issues with the players’ union had not been completed.
USA Today reported that the inability to play 10 games in a week could lead to a postponement of that entire week during the season, and six or more teams being unable to play multiple weeks could lead to a suspension of play. One person familiar with the league’s inner workings said it’s not clear whether those particular terms will be enacted but said issues such as that are being studied.
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