As pandemics go, the NFL has benefited from the timing of the current one. It didn’t emerge during football season, and it happened at a time that has given the league months to watch and to wait and to learn and to incorporate strategies employed by other sports leagues that were disrupted by the virus.
As explained by Bob Glauber of Newsday, the NFL is monitoring the impending return of Germany’s professional soccer league. Known as the Bundesliga, it will resume action on May 16.
“We’ve been in contact with all domestic leagues, but also sports organizations around the world,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Newsday. “We have a number of protocols, see what works, see what can translate into our sport. We’re all in the sports business, but every sport has its own matters to attend to.”
The Bundesliga will conduct games with no fans. The NFL is hopeful that, by September, football stadiums will be open. Until then, the NFL can learn from the measures utilized by other leagues to get back to business.
“We’re looking at eventually 90 players for training camp, which is quite different from other sports,” McCarthy said. “There are some commonalities, and that’s why we’ve had a number of people from our staff — from [NFL chief medical officer] Allen Sills and [NFL executive V.P. of health and safety policy] Jeff Miller — on calls with other sports leagues. We’re looking at what we can adopt, what we can modify that is working in other sports, sharing best practices.”
The NFL is determined to play in 2020, and the recently-released schedule hints at a damn-the-torpedoes desire to proceed with Week One, followed by flexibility for up to three weeks if political, P.R., and/or medical fallout compel adjustments.
If the NFL ultimately can’t play with fans present, maybe the league will take one specific page from the Bundesliga: Selling to fans the opportunity to place plastic cutouts in the stands.