Aside from the obvious health impact of the NFL’s COVID-19 crisis, the outbreak among multiple teams has created a complex logistical puzzle for the NFL.
League leaders addressed possible solutions to work in a full season for all teams on Tuesday, hours ahead of the league’s first Tuesday game since 2010 that was prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak among the Tennessee Titans.
Solutions the league is considering? Adding an 18th week to the regular season and delaying the Super Bowl. What’s off the table? A playoff bubble.
Goodell: Flexibility is critical
Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed reporters in a virtual news conference and emphasized the need for flexibility when asked about extending the season and delaying the Super Bowl.
“If there’s one consistent theme to our year it’s flexibility and adapting,” Goodell said. “Flexibility is going to be critical. We will have flexibility to complete our season, but to do it safely.”
NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent also spoke with reporters Tuesday and clarified the league’s stance toward an 18th week. He said that the goal is to complete all scheduled games within the league’s normal 17-week schedule while noting that “the 18th week is potentially an option.”
Playoff bubble a no-go
Vincent also shot down the idea of a playoff bubble similar to the one that proved a success in the NBA, which just wrapped the restart of its season without a single additional COVID-19 case on its Disney World campus.
"We don’t feel that is the safest course of action for us,” Vincent said.
NFL likens quarantine stress to COVID-19 impact
NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills likened the emotional toll of isolating players during the playoffs and around the holidays to the health threat presented by the coronavirus.
“That is just as much of a health and safety concern as COVID-19 infection,” Sills told reporters.
Sills has maintained opposition to playing in a bubble throughout the league’s COVID-19 planning, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has advocated for a playoff bubble on league calls. But a bubble requires planning. If the official league stance five weeks into the season is opposition, that suggests a bubble is completely off the table.
“This is not about discipline, this is about making sure we are keeping our personnel safe,” Goodell said. “That has been our focus to date.”
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