The NFL has avoided serious scheduling trouble, but there is a smaller margin for error now. And, with three months until Super Bowl LV, the scrutiny is dialed up.
COVID-19 protocols are more important than ever. NFL fans may see the 17-week regular season become one week longer, and the Super Bowl, scheduled for Feb. 7, 2021, is at risk of rescheduling if more postponements push back the season.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the uncertainty in a recent conference call with reporters.
“If there is one consistent theme to our season, it is flexibility and adapting,” Goodell said. “ … Fortunately, we haven’t had to use many of the things that we have discussed and thought about. But we will have flexibility to be able to complete our season for the Super Bowl. That’s the goal. We are all focused on that.”
The Las Vegas Raiders is the most recent team with a COVID-19 problem, and a prominent NFL writer took the Raiders to task.
Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk/NBC Sports says the Tennessee Titans served as a teaching tool, but that the Raiders failed to learn: “With the Raiders potentially derailing their Week Seven game … the NFL should blow the Raiders’ house down. For all the tough training-camp talk from coach Jon Gruden … the Raiders repeatedly have had their asses kicked when it comes to protocol compliance. … It’s time to make an example out of someone in order to ensure that everyone does what they’re supposed to do.”
Among the most desperate options is pushing the Super Bowl back – as many as four weeks is possible, Green Bay Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy told Packers Everywhere last week.
The NFL is no different from the rest of the pandemic-addled world, with flexibility and uncertainty continuing to be key buzzwords.