NFL 'prepared' for coronavirus-related schedule changes if necessary, Goodell says
NFL released full 17-week schedule Thursday night but is ready to adjust as needed.
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The NFL hasn’t ruled out changes to its 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, even after proceeding with the release of its traditional 17-week schedule Thursday night.
The 2020 NFL schedule is structured without any major differences compared to a typical season and is set to conclude with Super Bowl LV on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. However, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell noted the situation was fluid, adding the league “will continue to make our decisions based on the latest medical and public health advice.”
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“We will be prepared to make adjustments as necessary, as we have during this off-season in safely and efficiently conducting key activities such as free agency, the virtual off-season program, and the 2020 NFL Draft,” Goodell said in a statement.
While there are not clear contingencies built into the NFL schedule once games are underway, league executives have a game plan in mind if the pandemic delays the start of the season. If necessary, the NFL could delay Super Bowl LV by weeks, or even months, to allow for more time to complete the regular season, ESPN reported, citing league sources.
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Under that plan, games postponed at the start of the 2020 season could be added onto the schedule after Week 17 in order to complete a full slate of games. Any week of the schedule could serve as Week 1 of the NFL season.
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The NFL could also cancel its Pro Bowl, which traditionally takes place in the week prior to the Super Bowl, to add another week of flexibility.
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U.S. sports leagues suspended play in mid-March and are still working out the best way to resume play. MLB is set to unveil a proposal on a restart to its players' union within a week, while the NBA is allowing practice facilities to reopen for limited workouts in states that have relaxed shelter-in-place orders.
For now, the NFL is proceeding as if the 2020 season will proceed without interruption. There have been no active discussions on delaying the Super Bowl.