With its season positioned five months from now, the NFL has made clear its intention to play out a full normal season with fans. However, the current pandemic now has officials exploring other options as safety concerns ramp up. This news comes in conjunction with the announcement that Los Angeles Rams center Brian Allen has been infected, marking the league’s first confirmed COVID-19 case in a player.
League officials are said to be walking back their claim of putting on a full season and historic extended playoff format in 2020 by now considering a shortened season, the Washington Post reports. Whatever amount of games are played could also be completed with limited or no fans in attendance based on the advice of medical experts.
“As we have said, we are committed to protecting the health of our fans, players, club and league personnel, and communities,” the NFL said in a statement to the Post. “We look forward to the 2020 NFL season, and our guidelines and decisions will be guided by the latest advice from medical and public health officials, as well as current and future government regulations. We will continue to plan for the season and will be prepared to adjust as necessary, just as we have done with free agency, the draft, and now the offseason program.”
The NFL now finds itself in the same position as the NBA, MLB and NHL, all of which have recorded positive cases in players or organizations. Speaking with FOX Football Now, Rams head coach Sean McVay revealed that Allen had been tested positive three weeks ago and sustained symptoms led him to take another test last week that was also positive. McVay noted that Allen’s symptoms included loss of taste and smell, fatigue, stiffness and headaches, though he is recovering.
“The first thing was, number one, you just want to make sure that you’re doing all the necessary steps to identify how are you feeling health wise, and then are we making sure that everybody else is aware of what he’s been exposed to,” McVay said of his communication with Allen. “I talked to him yesterday and I’m really glad to hear that he’s feeling good, he’s healthy, and he’s on the road to recovery. I think we all understand that the severity of what this has meant for some people — fortunately for Brian he’s on the road to recovery — I think he did a great job of letting us know right away so we could be timely in our response and make sure that we didn’t expose anybody else.”
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton became the league’s first known figure to contract COVID-19 when his diagnosis was reported last month.