The National Football League (NFL) is expected to release its 2020 17-game schedule later this week, and amid the coronavirus pandemic, questions have been raised about possible changes. According to ESPN, league spokesman Brian McCarthy says the 2020 schedule won’t have any major changes and plans to start the season on time.
Some changes have been reported, however. The NFL is moving its five games scheduled for London and Mexico City this upcoming season back to U.S. stadiums because of the pandemic, the NFL announced via its NFL UK platform on Monday.
The NFL says they made the decision to play all the games in the U.S. this season for the well-being of players, personnel, and fans.
"We thank our incredible fans in those territories for their passionate support of the NFL," NFL executive vice president and chief strategy and growth officer Christopher Halpin said in the announcement.
All five regular-season games will be played at the stadiums of the host teams.
Scheduled were two home games for the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London and two at Tottenham’s new facility, with the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins as hosts.
The Arizona Cardinals were set to be the home team for the game at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.
There has been at least one international game every year since 2007. But with the current global health crisis, international travel is off the table; and home turf play is at risk as well.
Leading U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, said last week that the return of professional sports in the U.S. this year would be very difficult.
“Safety, for the players and for the fans, trumps everything,” he said. “If you can’t guarantee safety, then, unfortunately, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and say, ‘We may have to go without this sport for this season.’”
Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president, recently told The Associated Press the league is doing “reasonable and responsible planning” regarding the health and safety of players.
For now, McCarthy says the NFL is planning to play a full season, though it’s uncertain what that will look like. It’s expected the season will kick off on Sept. 10 and will end with the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 in Tampa.
But the league is planning several contingencies because of the coronavirus pandemic that could lead to everything from a delayed start to a late-winter Super Bowl.
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