The NFL returns to the fast-forward message it sent earlier this week.
NFL General Counsel Jeff Pash said in plain, straightforward words on Tuesday that the league plans to play a full season with full stadiums. NFL Surgeon General Dr. Allen Sills painted a more pragmatic picture on Thursday.
Speaking to Judy Battista of NFL Media, Dr. Sills began with an obvious statement: “I don’t think I would interpret these comments to say that this is absolutely what’s going to happen. Dr. Sills is right, because that is not what Pash said.
Here is what Pash said, explaining that the league is planning a full season: “That’s my expectation. Am I sure? I’m not sure I’m here tomorrow. But I plan and I plan a full season. “
Here is what Dr. Sills said to Battista: “I would say that everyone hopes we are able to do this. But the reality is that none of us know these facts with certainty right now. We hope and pray for the best and prepare for the worst, realizing that it is a potential result that we will be fully back in professional games as usual in front of fans on time. But it’s certainly not the only result. And I think what that meant was to say that we are not at the point where we say this is absolutely not going to happen, so we have to continue our planning and preparations as if we are going to be able to do it. But obviously, we’re going to have to assess this along the way. And follow the recommendations of public health officials and our experts in infectious and other diseases. “
All indications are that the league is so focused on the project that it doesn’t even think about the emergency plans for the 2020 season. Dr. Sills’ comments suggest that that has changed.
And then there’s this from Sills, which still undermines Pash’s steadfast tone: them in any form, shape or fashion, I don’t think you can start thinking about reopening a team sport. Because we are going to have positive cases for a very long time. “
So what has to happen for a sport like the NFL to reopen? At a minimum, residence orders will need to be lifted in all states where the NFL operates – or teams in states still locked out will need to train and play in a state that is not. In addition, quick and easy testing for the virus will be essential, as everyone in the facility will need to be constantly tested.
Then there is the issue of the presence of fans. Can it really happen without a vaccine? Probably not.
So it’s going to be a long and slow process. And the question of whether the NFL will play games this season remains open – and it will be for some time.