Even though we are in the middle of an offseason unlike any other in pro football history, Thursday was a busy day for the NFL. Not only did the league decide to cancel its Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and to postpone the enshrinement ceremony that was originally scheduled for the same weekend, it also held a virtual conference call to talk about the 2020 season.
No game-changing decisions were made during the call that involved all 32 team owners, there are still some takeaways worth talking about.
Teams will indeed report to training camp on July 28
NFL general counsel Jeff Pash, who fans of the New England Patriots may remember as one of the key figures in the Deflategate affair, spoke to reporters after the conference call and reiterated the league’s plans about teams reporting to training camp: the majority of them including the Patriots is still scheduled to report to their respective facilities on July 28. While no decisions have yet been made about preseason — there is an option for other exhibition contests to face the Hall of Fame Game’s fate as well — the camp schedule is alive and well.
The league still plans to have fans in the stands
League commissioner Roger Goodell also spoke with the media and said that the plan would still be to “get ready for games at our stadiums and to engage our fans both in stadiums and through our media partners.” How exactly this plan will be executed is up in the air, but teams will be advised to follow guidelines set forth by the CDC as well as state and local authorities when it comes to allowing fans into the stadiums. However, the clubs themselves and not the league will set policies accordingly.
Empty seats will be covered with ads
If the league is unable to fill its stadiums at the usual capacity — which seems likely given that the United States just registered a new single-day record in Coronavirus cases o Thursday (39,327) — there is a plan in place to try to make up for some of the lost revenue: owners approved a proposal that would allow teams to cover the seats closest to the field with sponsor logos or other messages.
The NFL has ambitious Covid-19 procedures on its mind
According to the NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, the league is in active discussions with its players association about Coronavirus testing and other screening procedures as well as treatment protocols including the possible creation of special reserve lists. The current plan is to test players up to three times a week, but Sills emphasized that “testing alone isn’t going to be good enough to keep everybody healthy.”
2021 Hall of Fame weekend will be busy
While the rest of the NFL calendar and anti-Coronavirus efforts across the nation will also determine how next year’s offseason will be organized, some tentative dates for the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend have been announced. Needless to say that it will be a busy one:
- Thursday, August 5, 2021: Hall of Fame Game (Cowboys vs. Steelers)
- Saturday, August 7, 2021: Enshrinement ceremony for the Class of 2020
- Sunday, August 8, 2021: Enshrinement ceremony for the Class of 2021