According to reporting by multiple outlets, the NFL is planning on eliminating two of the four games on its preseason schedule for the coming year. The league already cancelled the Hall of Fame game in early August, which traditionally opens the preseason action. The new change will eliminate games one and four of the preseason for all teams, allowing for more time to prepare for action due to enormous shifts in early workouts due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The altered preseason will be the first since 1978 where teams don’t play four games as part of the ramp-up to the regular season. Prior to that point, teams played six preseason games.
Teams will report to training camp at the end of July, but will not play the first round of games until August 20-24, with the regular season scheduled to begin with a September 10 contest between the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans on NBC.
The NFL and the NFLPA continue to discuss protocols for reopening of team facilities, testing programs and other matters related to playing amid a pandemic. Sources close to the discussions say there is no hard deadline for a finalizing of protocols, but that if training camps are to start on time (July 28 for all but two teams), there’s a sense on both sides that an agreement needs to be reached by the end of next week.
One reason for this is that there’s a chance the league will ask players and team personnel to quarantine at home for two weeks before leaving for camp. This doesn’t even account for newly imposed rules in states like New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts that ask people coming from states where coronavirus cases are spiking to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
It is unclear whether or not teams will reduce the payment for season ticket members due to the reduced preseason schedule. Generally, season ticket packages include preseason games, which are paid for in addition to the eight home games on each team’s schedule.
Much remains up in the air related to how teams will address potential attendance during this fall. The league is allowing individual teams and cities to determine what percentage of capacity is safe for attendance, though it is reportedly considering requiring fans sign liability waivers. Many teams have already begun offering season ticket holders the ability to pause their packages for the year with no penalty, which is widely assumed to mean that teams are expecting drastically reduced capacity in most markets.