The most unique season in NFL history went down in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

All it took was nearly 1 million Covid-19 tests, $100 million, and zero cancellations to allow last year’s NFL season to still take place despite the virus ravaging the nation.

NFL players and league staff had to change their lives significantly in order to make it through the season which successfully ended with Super Bowl LV not having to be cancelled.

Many players had attended games without even a single practice snap beforehand while coaches spent months planning the games virtually and with no physical contact. 

While several games had to be postponed, not one was cancelled. This is rather impressive given that coronavirus cases in the U.S. had reached over 4 million when the season kicked off in 2020.

According to data by The Atlantic’s COVID-19 tracking project, the NFL league had a positivity rate of 0.076% since Aug. 1st, and 726 infections among 959,860 tests on an average of about 7,500 employees per week. Compared to the national average of 6.8%, the NLF fared a lot better than the rest of the country.

“Our NFL facilities and team environments were some of the safest possible locations in those respective communities over the course of the season,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, to ESPN. 

“It took a concerted effort by everybody involved to be OK with doing things differently,” said NFLPA president and Browns center JC Tretter. “Getting over the fact that you’re going to have to do things differently and then doing those things the right way. And as we know with COVID, if there is even an opening for someone not to live by that, it could cost us.”

Despite millions of Americans now vaccinated and most of the nation re-opened, the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to surge and has cast some worries over how this year’s NFL season may look.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical advisor, has said over the weekend that things are expected to get worse because of the Delta variant and has projected “pain and suffering ahead.”

Speaking to ABC’s Jon Karl, Fauci said, “I don’t think we’re going to see lockdowns. I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country, not enough to crush the outbreak, but I believe enough to allow us to not get into the situation we were in last winter.”

He added, “But things are going to get worse. If you look at the numbers, the seven-day average has gone up substantially. We are seeing an outbreak of the unvaccinated.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is fortunately optimistic that NFL stadiums this fall will be packed with fans even with the current circumstances.

Goodell told NFL Network’s Judy Battista that they must combine confidence with a willingness to adapt.

“This year, we’re comfortable that local regulations are going to allow us to have fans at all 32 stadiums. We’ll still be smart. We’re still going to be willing to adapt. We’re still going to do everything to make sure our fans are safe when they’re there,” Goodell said over the weekend at Inside Training Camp Live. 

He added, “But we expect full stadiums. You know, the fans want to come back. That’s the No. 1 thing we hear. We’re seeing that in our ticket sales. Fans just want to be a part (of) and have that collective experience. Doing that around an NFL game is fun.”

As vaccination rates among players increase, the commissioner is encouraged that the 2021 NFL season will see “limited disruptions.” So far, the league has reached 89 percent of players taking at least one shot, with 22 clubs reaching 90 percent and nine at over 95 percent, said NFL Network’s Judy Battista. 

“I think the increasing numbers are indicating with people getting more comfortable, understanding better that they are effective, that they are safe and that they are the best way to keep yourself and your family and everyone around you safe,” Goodell said. 

“So, I think that’s why you’re seeing the numbers increase. I think we’ll continue to see that as we get further into camps, with camps opening. I think we’re in a place where I think we can keep our personnel safe and have limited disruptions,” he added.

Goodell realizes the Delta variant may require the League to do things differently this year but according to the commissioner, the key for the NFL this year, like last year, is “going to be to work together.”

“Work together amongst our clubs, with our players, and really work to adapt our protocols as necessary. That’s where we’ll be. I think if we do that and we stay on top of that, I think we’ll be effective and have very limited disruptions to the season,” he concluded.

We expect the 2021 NFL season to begin on Thursday, September 9th.

Sources:

https://www.nfl.com/news/nfl-commissioner-roger-goodell-we-expect-full-stadiums-for-games-this-season

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/30781978/how-nfl-navigated-covid-19-season-959860-tests-100-million-zero-cancellations

https://www.businessinsider.com/dr-fauci-covid-surge-will-get-worse-with-pain-and-suffering-2021-8