The Return of the NFL

Photo+taken+by+Naomi+Baker+of+Getty+Images.

Photo taken by Naomi Baker of Getty Images.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the sports world has been craving the games and teams they love more than ever before. With the NBA and MLB being the first of the three major professional sports in the US to return, NFL fans were left more anxious than ever to hear when or if the league would hold a 2020-21 season. Although it seemed bleak throughout summer, the NFL began its season on time, albeit without a preseason. As excited as fans are about the return of professional football, the majority of teams will not be allowing fans into stadiums for an extended period of time, depending on the reported COVID-19 cases both locally and within the organization. In week one, only Jacksonville and Kansas City opened their stadiums to the public, both had very limited seating and maintained social distancing regulations throughout their respective stadiums. The Denver Broncos also hosted people in their stadium, but only invited guests of the players were allowed to walk through the gates of Mile High Stadium. To a great sum of NFL fans, watching the game from home with little to no fans was a very odd, new experience, but it almost seemed to be even stranger to the players. 

Miami Dolphins wide receiver, Jakeem Grant, was “mic’d up” in the Dolphins’ opening game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, and said, “This is like a scrimmage in high school. There’s nobody here.”

That seemed to sum up what most people around the NFL thought of opening weekend: It was just weird. With the games being so quiet, coaches and team officials on the sidelines having to wear masks, and halftime and postgame interviews being done virtually, the NFL is seeing a time that no one could have ever foreseen. With that being said, the league does seem to be doing something right in its containment of COVID-19.

According to Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports, as of August 17th, the NFL had just 15 players in quarantine due to COVID-19. While yes, this is a slightly dated statistic, the fact remains that that is a significantly lower number  than many experts believed for the middle training camp. After seeing the numbers that Major League Baseball initially reported, to see just 15 cases is a huge win for the NFL going forward if they can stay at a similar pace.

The NFL’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Allen Sills, has stated, “I am very proud of the innovation and attention to detail that our club medical staffs have shown as they have created these plans, which were reviewed and approved by the league, the NFLPA and our infectious disease experts.”

As Dr. Sills alluded to, the NFL has done a very good job at containing the seemingly uncontainable force that is COVID-19. Each team is said to have done very well at acknowledging and alerting the league’s head office of anyone on staff with symptoms of COVID-19 as well as administering regular tests and taking appropriate action when someone within the organization has a positive result. It is vital that this remains the standard throughout the league, however, especially if teams want to start allowing fans to be in attendance. However, just a couple of months ago it seemed that even having an NFL season was a pipe dream, therefore it is not completely ludicrous to suggest that we might be seeing fans walking through the gates, at a limited capacity of course, throughout the league before the season is over.

The New Orleans Saints faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an empty Mercedes-Benz Super Dome in New Orleans, photo taken by Brett Duke of the Associated Press.

At the end of the day, football is back. As weird as it may be, it is back. Hopefully, as the pages continue to turn on this odd new chapter in the NFL’s history it all becomes more normal. Hopefully the desire for stadiums to open again becomes a reality. Hopefully COVID-19 will be a thing of the past come playoff time. All of these wishes are in the back of every fan’s mind, but as of now there is one thing known for certain: NFL football is back.