NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the league is “very fortunate” to have few training camp Covid-19 cases and in the best position possible to play a full 2020 season.
Goodell spoke Tuesday after the NFL released its latest coronavirus test figures, with only four players and six team staffers positive for the deadly virus from August 21-29.
With only a 0.1 per cent positive rate, Goodell says the NFL is prepared to do what it takes to complete the campaign from the September 10 opener finding Houston at Kansas City to the Super Bowl in February at Tampa, Florida.
“It will not be easy, and it will be different,” Goodell said. “But we are prepared.”
The NFL is set to stop the daily testing of players on Saturday while the NFL Players Association wants the league to continue daily player testing as it has done during training camps.
The league plans to stage games in team home stadiums, most with no spectators but some with reduced capacity to allow for social distancing.
Goodell said he thinks some teams with no spectators to open the season might be able to open to fans later in the campaign and added that he does not see any advantage for teams with fans versus those with empty home venues.
“We may be having a lot of teams that will start with no fans in the beginning of the season and they evolve to fans,” Goodell said. “We do not believe it’s a competitive advantage.”
Dr Allen Sills, NFL chief medical officer, says the number of people in team travel parties will decrease, including owners, who will have limited locker room and field access and must first be tested for Covid-19 to be in either place.
Sills said coaches and sideline personnel must wear face masks during games under new protocol measures unveiled Tuesday.
NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent said players have the option to stage boycotts to protest police brutality and racial injustice, a move undertaken for three days last week by the NBA before players resumed the playoffs on Saturday.
“They all have the choice, that individual choice and right to either sit out or protest,” Vincent said.
NFL players want the league to apply pressure upon local officials regarding police reform and accountability measures.
Goodell emphasized NFL social justice initiatives, saying the phrases “It Takes All of Us” and “End Racism” will appear in NFL end zones this season. The league is also making moves to encourage voter registration.