NFL officials and even President Trump have remained hopeful that the league can get its 2020 season underway on schedule. But Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, is now offering his take on how that timely goal can be achieved.
Sills revealed to NFL.com that certain health conditions must be met for the league to think about moving forward as scheduled. He urged anxious fans to adhere to experts’ advice for changing COVID-19 developments in getting the virus under control before football season can start.
“I would say that’s everyone’s hope, that we are in a position to [start on time],” Sills said. “But the reality is none of us know those facts for certain right now. We hope and pray for the best and prepare for the worst, realizing that is one potential outcome that we will be back fully in business playing games as normal in front of fans on schedule. But it’s certainly not the only outcome.”
The nature of the virus’ quick transmission has interrupted all interactive aspects of life and Sills maintains that for the NFL to move forward, testing for COVID-19 cases is crucial. He predicts a lengthy timeframe where the virus exists in individuals and warns of further transmission when it comes to resuming group gatherings like sporting events and even training camp.
“As long as we’re still in a place where when a single individual tests positive for the virus that you have to quarantine every single person who was in contact with them in any shape, form or fashion, then I don’t think you can begin to think about reopening a team sport,” he said. “Because we’re going to have positive cases for a very long time.”
Testing for players to return to the field may be feasible, but questions remain about whether the NFL should open up games to thousands of fans in the fall depending on the state of the pandemic. The overwhelming answer for all questions at this point is time, Sills says.
“The NFL will not be charting a course different than other professional sports, other parts of society — college sports, universities, businesses. None of us can predict that. We can look at various models and prepare for different scenarios. We’re just going to need more time before we know what the right thing to do is.”
The league will practice social distancing going forward with a virtual edition of the 2020 NFL Draft later this month.