It has been 102 days since Jeff Pash, the NFL’s executive vice president and general counsel, announced an unexpectedly bold plan for the 2020 season amid a coronavirus pandemic that was only starting.
All of our discussions, Pash said, all of our focus, has been on a normal, traditional season, starting on time, playing in front of fans, in our regular stadiums, and going through a full 16-game regular season and a full set of playoffs. That’s our focus.
At the same time, Pash acknowledged the obvious. The date was March 31, which meant the NFL had months to figure out how to pull it off. But that time has dwindled. Rookies and selected veterans are scheduled to report to training camp on July 21, with full squads anticipated one week later.
Can the NFL pull off an on-time start to training camp, much less a season? In the time since Pash made his announcement, the United States flattened its daily virus count only to see a surge in infections and hospitalizations this summer in Southern states. Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League are the only major professional team sports to make it back on the field, although MLB, the NBA and the NHL have entered the early stages of their return.
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said Thursday night that the NFL hopes to plow a road for the entire country as it deals with the pandemic.
I think this is important not just for the NFL or for professional sports not even for sports at all levels, Sills said at a virtual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. I think what we are trying to do which is to find a way to mitigate risk and to coexist with this virus this is really key information for schools, for businesses, for all segments of society. I think we have a unique opportunity but also a responsibility to use the platform and resources of the NFL to really study and learn and to take that knowledge and apply it for the benefit of the other segments of the society. That is what we plan to do.