Sources: NFL Teams Investigating Shortened 14-Game Season Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images. Pictured: Roger Goodell
The NFL is planning to announce a full regular schedule later this week, sources told The Action Network.
The 256-game schedule is expected to be seen across the sports world as a vote of confidence that a full season can be played, though sources admit that some of it has to do with the fact that the first regular season game is still four months away (Sept. 10).
But behind the scenes, teams have been modeling out shortened seasons. One particular scenario that has taken hold, according to team sources, is a 14-game schedule that would start in October and result in the Super Bowl being pushed back just one week to Feb. 14. Under this scenario, the two games that would be cut would be cross-conference matchups. The week off in between Championship Sunday and the Super Bowl would be removed, which would include the cancelation of the Pro Bowl.
The league, through a spokesman, said it wouldn’t comment on speculation about the schedule. On Monday, the NFL officially announced it would not be playing international games in 2020.
Last week, Sports Business Journal reported the NFL is also looking into whether it can possibly still play all 16 regular-season games if the start of the season has to get pushed back to mid-October.
As of now, NFL executives expect to have some fans at games in 2020 and are currently modeling out various scenarios, ranging from allowing zero fans to other scenarios where the stadiums would be at 25%, 50% or 75% capacity.
Compared to the other major leagues, the NFL would take the smallest hit from crowdless games since national television and sponsorship money provide a huge boost to the teams — about $300 million per club in 2019 — though one source said all that does is cover team payroll.
There is obviously a lot that is unknown, ranging from whether all states will open up to allow teams to play in their home stadiums (New Jersey for Jets and Giants and California for Chargers, 49ers and Rams, come to mind) to how active the virus will be and what kind of protocols will be put in place if players or personnel test positive.
But, for now, the NFL still has time on its side and announcing anything but preceding ahead with a normal schedule, at least publicly, would be fruitless.