The NFL has already shortened the preseason from four games to two, but it might cancel the preseason altogether. If so, teams would go right from training camp to the regular season.
For NFL Network analyst Mike Giardi, this is yet another reminder that playing a 2020 season during a pandemic will be difficult. In fact, Giardi is “pessimistic” about a season actually occurring.
“I just think that there are so many unanswered questions about how you’re going to deal with this,” he said on The DA Show. “The virus has its own ideas about how it’s going to go, when it’s going to attack, who it’s going to attack. In general, we feel like if you’re in that 20-to-35 [age range] and you’re a well-conditioned athlete that it’s really not going to impact you much. But there’s some people that say there can be long-term effects even if you’re asymptomatic.”
More than 130,000 Americans have died of COVID19. It stands to reason that NFL teams will be hard-pressed to prevent or limit community spread.
“Bare minimum, you could probably get away with 120 people in and around the football team every day,” Giardi said. “You multiply that by 32 and then you’ve got their families and all the math that that brings into the equation. Are they doing the right things? Are they being smart? I know you can’t prevent it from getting into an NFL locker room. The question is then what sort of impact does it have once it gets there?”
If the season does occur, fans figure to be few and far between on game day, but the NFL makes a nice chunk of change from its TV contracts. Even if teams are decimated by COVID19, might the league try to play the season by any means necessary? In other words, just get guys in helmets and have them play football for three hours?
“I think there’s definitely a huge part of that [line of thinking],” Giardi said. “You follow the dollars, right? We’re on pace to begin in just a few weeks, and I think they’re going to push forward in hopes that, at the very least, you have games with no fans. But as you’re seeing . . . plenty of places – Pittsburgh, Ohio, Texas – [want] fans in stands at least to some capacity. I definitely think we’re going to press forward. It’s just a question of what happens when your quarterback room all ends up testing positive or having to be quarantined and your offensive line group is all quarantined. Are you fine with signing a guy off the street to play that week?”
Simply expanding practice squads isn’t a perfect solution, either.
“If you expand practice squads even more, now you’re adding more bodies into the equation,” Giardi said. “I guess they’re going to have to come up with some sort of [plan] about how that’s going to work. Again, I think there’s a lot of questions that remain unanswered in the big picture.”