Despite the Coronavirus pandemic still not under control in parts of the United States, the NFL and the NFL Players Association are aiming at playing a full 16-game regular season and playoff slate this year. In order to achieve that goal, however, some changes will have to be made from a procedural perspective. One of those will be shortening this year’s preseason.
While the league’s original plans were reported as a reduction from the standard four down to two exhibition contests, opposition from the players union has reportedly forced the NFL to reconsider and submit a new proposal: according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the NFL now calls for one preseason game to be played. That game would take place in what would normally be the third week of preseason.
While the players union still wants to cancel preseason altogether in favor of a longer acclimation period heading into the regular season, the NFL’s willingness to alter its stance should be seen as a positive development in the ongoing labor dispute that was created by Covid-19. It remains to be seen how the NFLPA, whose board unanimously voted earlier this month to recommend canceling preseason altogether, will respond to the new proposal.
“Any time you reduce preseason games, I know for some people you look at it and it’s just like, ‘Hey, no one goes to those games, they are not as important, blah, blah, blah,’” said New England Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty in early July. “But at the same time, some of your favorite players now were guys that had to go out there and make a name for themselves in those preseason games. Whenever you see those types of games taken away, it hurts, because that’s the way guys make the team that they are on. They make other teams.”
From the Patriots’ perspective, eliminating all but the third preseason game would mean that the team’s lone exhibition contest would be played on Thursday, August 27. Under the original schedule released in early May, the team would travel to Philadelphia that day to take on the Eagles. That could pose a problem under current regulations, however: people arriving in Massachusetts from Pennsylvania are currently expected to self-quarantine for 14 days.
While the situation remains fluid for the time being, it now seems very likely that New England will play no more than one preseason game in 2020.