NFL Season Amid Coronavirus

NFL Season Amid Coronavirus

As more sporting events are canceled, postponed, or fundamentally altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one league is forging ahead with its upcoming season: the NFL. And as teams get ready to return to the gridiron this fall, here is a guide to what you can expect from the 2020 NFL season.

Players Opting Out

Ahead of the 2020 season, the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed on an August 6 deadline for players choosing if they wanted to opt-out of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the 67 players opting out of the 2020 season.

Team Players
Arizona Cardinals Marcus Gilbert
Baltimore Ravens De’Anthony Thomas, Andre Smith
Buffalo Bills Star Lotulelei, E.J. Gaines
Carolina Panthers Jordan Mack, Christian Miller
Chicago Bears Eddie Goldman, Jordan Lucas
Cincinnati Bengals Josh Tupou, Isaiah Prince
Cleveland Browns Colby Gossett, Drew Forbes, Drake Dorbeck, Andrew Billings, Malcolm Pridgeon
Dallas Cowboys Maurice Canady, Stephen Guidry, Jamize Olawale
Denver Broncos Kyle Peko, Ja’Wuan James
Detroit Lions John Atkins, Geronimo Allison, Russell Bodine
Green Bay Packers Devin Funchess
Houston Texans Eddie Vanderdoes
Indianapolis Colts Skai Moore, Rolan Milligan, Marvell Tell
Jacksonville Jaguars Lerentee McCray, Rashaan Melvin, Al Woods
Kansas City Chiefs Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Lucas Niang, Damien Williams
Las Vegas Raiders D.J. Killings, Jeremiah Valoaga, Ukeme Eligwe
Los Angeles Rams Chandler Brewer
Miami Dolphins Allen Hurns, Albert Wilson
Minnesota Vikings Michael Pierce
New England Patriots Marcus Cannon, Patrick Chung, Dont’a Hightower, Matt LaCosse, Dan Vitale, Brandon Bolden, Najee Toran, Marqise Lee
New Orleans Saints Jason Vander Laan, Cole Wick
New York Giants Nate Solder, Da’Mari Scott, Sam Beal
New York Jets Leo Koloamatangi, C.J. Mosley, Josh Doctson
Philadelphia Eagles Marquise Goodwin
San Francisco 49ers Travis Benjamin, Shon Coleman, Jake Brendel
Seattle Seahawks Chance Warmack
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Brad Seaton
Tennessee Titans Anthony McKinney
Washington Football Team Caleb Brantley, Josh Harvey-Clemons

The Atlanta Falcons, the Los Angeles Chargers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have any players opting out.

During the season, active players may be able to opt-out at a later date if either of the following applies:

  • If the player gets a new diagnosis of a high-risk condition
  • If the player’s family member dies, is hospitalized, or otherwise moves to a medical facility because of COVID-19 or a related condition.

Coronavirus Testing

According to the NFLPA COVID-19 dashboard, 107 players tested positive for coronavirus during the offseason. Since players reported to training camps, there were 64 positive tests. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and Broncos defensive end Von Miller are two high-profile players who have spoken publicly about testing positive.

When camps began, tests were administered daily to personnel for the first two weeks. At the end of the two-week period, if a team’s positive tests were below five percent, testing could go to every other day.

Once a player tests positive and is symptomatic, he can return to camp after 10 days have passed since the symptoms first appeared and 72 hours have passed since he last experienced symptoms. If a player tests positive and is asymptomatic, he can return to the facility after 10 days from the initial positive test or if he receives two consecutive negative tests within five days of the initial positive test.

The NFL recently had a bit of a coronavirus scare, when 11 teams experienced a rash of positive tests. However, the tests were all from a lab in New Jersey that had returned dozens of false positives, reported ESPN. After the samples were retested, all came back negative. Just to be safe, all 77 people were retested with new samples and all of those also came back negative.

Fans or No Fans?

The NFL is leaving the decision whether to allow fans into the game up to each individual team, much to the consternation of some of the coaches. Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott told ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques that the inconsistency across the league is “ridiculous,” and Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “I think there are some unfair things going on around it as far as some teams can have fans and some teams can’t. So I think there is a competitive disadvantage in some of those areas.”

Here is a team-by-team breakdown of the attendance policies. Many of the no-fan policies are for the first two home games only as teams wait and see how things look in a month.

Team Fan Policy
Arizona Cardinals TBA
Atlanta Falcons No fans
Baltimore Ravens No fans
Buffalo Bills No fans
Carolina Panthers TBA
Chicago Bears No fans
Cincinnati Bengals No fans
Cleveland Browns TBA
Dallas Cowboys Fans in limited capacity (TBA)
Denver Broncos No fans
Detriot Lions No fans
Green Bay Packers No fans
Houston Texans No fans
Indianapolis Colts Fans at 25 percent capacity
Jacksonville Jaguars Fans at 25 percent capacity
Kansas City Chiefs Fans at 22 percent capacity
Las Vegas Raiders No fans
Los Angeles Chargers No fans
Los Angeles Rams No fans
Miami Dolphins Fans at 20 percent capacity
Minnesota Vikings No fans
New England Patriots No fans
New Orleans Saints No fans
New York Giants No fans
New York Jets No fans
Philadelphia Eagles TBA
Pittsburgh Steelers TBA
San Francisco 49ers No fans
Seattle Seahawks No fans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fans at 25 percent capacity
Tennessee Titans No fans
Washington Football Team No fans

Safety Precautions For Attendees

Several teams have listed their safety guidelines for fans in attendance at games. The Cowboys require masks and will seat fans in “pods” to maintain distance between groups that are not together. They will still allow tailgating, though one space must remain empty between cars, and parties are not allowed to co-mingle. The stadium will also be deep cleaned throughout the season.

The other teams allowing fans to attend games are putting similar protocols in place, including requiring masks of all attendees, cash-less concessions, upgraded ventilation systems, no-touch entries, and socially-distanced seating clusters. The Chiefs will be providing commemorative masks to all fans who attend the first three games.

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