Even though the Coronavirus pandemic still hovers over the league and the country as a whole, the NFL is on a clear path to returning to normalcy. This also includes welcoming fans back to stadiums this fall, and the league appears to be very optimistic.
According to NFL executive Peter O’Reilly (via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero), 30 of the league’s 32 clubs have already gotten permission to reopen at 100 percent capacity before the start of the 2021 preseason. The two others — the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts — are apparently also on “a clear path” to joining the rest of the clubs.
As for the New England Patriots, they were already given the green light earlier this month.
With vaccination progress steady, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced on May 16 that all Covid-19 restrictions in the Commonwealth will be lifted starting May 29. In turn, large venues such as the team’s Gillette Stadium will be allowed to reopen at full capacity.
“Once vaccines have been available in a community for a long enough period of time where anyone who’s wanted one could’ve gotten it and reached two weeks past their second shot ... then I don’t know why you shouldn’t be at full capacity,” Patriots team president Jonathan Kraft, who is also serving as chairman of the Board of Trustees at Massachusetts General Hospital, said during the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in April.
One month later, Massachusetts has opened the road for such a return at full capacity. The Patriots will therefore join the other clubs in not only hosting fans again this year, but doing so without any restrictions.
With that said, the organization announced several “changes to the fan experience” in February — including a permanent move to mobile ticketing and the implementation of cashless payments across all concessions and merchandise locations at Gillette Stadium. Safety is still the highest priority, despite the optimism that the reopening will work just fine.