NFL 2020: Who really knows what to expect on field and off?

By Barry Wilner

Never has the NFL doubted it would open its season on time. For months, it has steadfastly stuck to its plans, even as the coronavirus pandemic has altered the course of every other sport — on all levels.

With its kickoff game of Super Bowl champion Kansas City hosting Houston rapidly approaching, possibly with fans in the stands, America’s most popular sport must recognize the challenges off the field could be more daunting than those on it. Particularly after 77 false positive COVID-19 tests last weekend.

“We’re going to have to be flexible and adaptable,” says Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer and, in 2020, for good reason, its most visible executive. “I think that’s something we’ll continue to track and monitor. If this taught us anything, projecting three, four weeks down the road is a hazardous business.”

Many would say playing a collision sport not only is hazardous but foolhardy. The NFL did have 67 players opt out of the season. But it seems the vast majority of players, coaches, executives and, for certain, owners, want to stick to the script. Even with the risk COVID-19 presents.

“I just really thought about all the things that could happen,” says Broncos star linebacker Von Miller, who has recovered from the coronavirus. “This season is different from any other season. I weighed the positives and the negatives, and I came to my own decision that I can play. I thought about me having asthma. I went over everything that I possibly could with my agent, and we just thought about it.

“I feel like every player should do that. Every player should think about everything they could do.”

The NFL believes it has thought of everything it can do to provide the safest environment for its games. Still, some clubs are planning to open the gates to fans, with the Dolphins announcing plans for about 13,000 folks in the stands on Sept. 20.

Yes, there are competitive imbalance issues there, but if one municipality allows fans and another doesn’t, is it up to the league to step in?

“It’s very hard,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer says. “Some stadiums, they’re allowing people in, and it looks like we’re not going to have any fans there early, which really stinks because we have such unbelievable fans, and they make that place rocking every Sunday. But the best way to have home-field advantage is to play really good: execute, make tackles, don’t make mistakes, don’t commit penalties, turnovers, all those things.”

Some teams have huge advantages heading into a season like no other, with or without anyone in the seats.

Read the original Associated Press story by Barry Wilner

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