National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday he expects uncertainty to swirl around the league for the forseeable future, warning the arrival of Covid-19 vaccines was no guarantee of a return to normalcy next season.
With the NFL preparing to bring the curtain down on a 2020-2021 campaign played out under the shadow of the pandemic, Goodell admitted the league would continue to face ongoing challenges from coronavirus.
Asked when he expected to see a return to normal, Goodell told a press conference: "I wish I knew the answer to that."
Last year the NFL scrambled to adapt as the pandemic brought sport in North America to a standstill in mid-March.
The league scrapped plans for its annual draft in April, and pre-season training schedules and games were reduced drastically or scrapped altogether.
Goodell said the league would continue to take a nimble approach to Covid-19 this year as it irons out plans for the 2021 season.
"One of the things I have learned is trying not to project too far in advance because it's difficult to do," Goodell said.
The league would adopt a policy of "wait as long as you possibly can, be prepared for uncertainty and find solutions" Goodell added.
"I don't know when normal is going to occur again, and I don't know if normal ever will again," Goodell said.
"But I know that we have learned to live under a very difficult environment, we have developed solutions and we'll do it again. That's what we believe has been the lesson for us this year."
The NFL Players Association's president J.C. Tretter has said players' fitness benefited from a reduced workload in the pandemic-affected Spring months last year.
Goodell said he expected offseason activities to show "significant changes" this year, noting that "virtual is going to be part of our life for the long term."
"There's value in practices and training and in pre-season games for developing young players," Goodell said. "Maybe the veteran players don't need that so much."
Although Goodell said the NFL was a strong proponent of the Covid-19 vaccines that are now being rolled out across the United States, he emphasized the league would not seek to "jump the line" by acquiring vaccine shots for players and league personnel.
"We support the priorities established by medical experts for the vaccine," he said. Any decision to allow fans back into stadiums -- most NFL games this season have taken place in empty arenas -- would be taken in consultation with local health officials Goodell said.
The NFL has invited 7,500 vaccinated frontline health workers to attend Sunday's Super Bowl in Tampa, part of a reduced capacity crowd of around 25,000 in attendance for the game.