With COVID-19 case rates causing concern, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell remained confident that stadiums would be full across the league this fall in an interview with NFL Network that aired over the weekend.
“This year, we’re comfortable that local regulations are going to allow us to have fans at all 32 stadiums. We’ll still be smart. We’re still going to be willing to adapt. We’re still going to do everything to make sure our fans are safe when they’re there,” Goodell said in an interview for Inside Training Camp Live. “But we expect full stadiums. You know, the fans want to come back. That’s the No. 1 thing we hear. We’re seeing that in our ticket sales. Fans just want to be a part (of) and have that collective experience. Doing that around an NFL game is fun.”
In the interview, Goodell indicated that the leaguewide vaccination rate for players is high – 89 percent have had at least one shot, with 22 clubs at or above 90 percent and nine at 95 percent. Those numbers, coupled with strong fan demand for a return to full capacity stadiums, mean plans for a season without capacity restrictions remain in place despite delta variant concerns, at least for the time being.
“I think the increasing numbers are indicating with people getting more comfortable, understanding better that they are effective, that they are safe and that they are the best way to keep yourself and your family and everyone around you safe,” Goodell said. “So I think that’s why you’re seeing the numbers increase. I think we’ll continue to see that as we get further into camps, with camps opening. I think we’re in a place where I think we can keep our personnel safe and have limited disruptions.”
Consequences for uncontrolled spread among players and staff were also ratcheted up in recent weeks, with teams responsible for cancelled games to be hit with a forfeit. The league’s COVID-19 protocols for league personnel were updated last week, as was the testing plans in terms of requency to be aware of any and all potential cases within organizations for isolation purposes.
“We’re all following science. We’re following what’s happening in the world around us, obviously with the variant out there. It’s changing the way we look at it,” Goodell added. “I think the key for us this year, just like last year, is going to be work together. Work together amongst our clubs, with our players, and really work to adapt our protocols as necessary. That’s where we’ll be. I think if we do that and we stay on top of that, I think we’ll be effective and have very limited disruptions to the season.”