The NFLâ€™s off-season programs are well underway, the schedule has long been released and studied by fans, and training camps are approaching. But despite all the special preparations and protocols being developed amid the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci believes we still need to be prepared for the possibility of no football at all.
â€œUnless players are essentially in a bubble â€” insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day â€” it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,â€ Fauci, the U.S. director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Thursday.
The pandemic has brought the sports world to a screeching halt, forcing leagues to suspend, postpone and outright cancel seasons and events. Footballâ€™s fall start has meant the NCAA and the NFL have so far been largely spared the difficulty of restructuring their seasons.
The NFL pivoted parts of its off-season, conducting a virtual draft and moving team programs online. It also canceled upcoming international games in London and Mexico City, but it appears intent to operate on schedule with pre-season set to open Aug. 6 and the 2020 campaign scheduled for kick-off Sept. 10.
But that fall start date could prove especially problematic, as Fauci pointed out:
â€œIf there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year,â€ Fauci said.
Fauciâ€™s cautionary comments come a day after NFL Networkâ€™s Tom Pelissero reported that the NFL will focus its efforts this season on testing and contact tracing as opposed to the â€œbubbleâ€ approach weâ€™re seeing from the NHL and NBA as they try to start up again.
â€œWe do not feel itâ€™s practical or appropriate to construct a bubble,â€ NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said, via Pelissero, on Wednesday. â€œAnyone who tests positive will be isolated until medically appropriate to return.â€