By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NBA and NHL had their seasons halted abruptly. Major League Baseball won’t be having Opening Day this week, and won’t be holding any games for the foreseeable future, all due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The NFL has, of course, not been affected in an on-field manner as the nation and the world tries to grapple with the COVID-19 outbreak. And the league hopes that that case will remain the same come September.
Mark Maske of The Washington Post spoke with “several people familiar with the league’s planning” who are hopeful that despite all of the cancellations in the sporting world, the NFL season will be able to go on largely as scheduled in the fall.
“NFL officials remain guardedly optimistic at this point, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, that they’ll be able to stage a complete or nearly complete 2020 regular season,” Maske wrote. “But they are increasingly pessimistic about salvaging any of teams’ offseason programs for players, and wary about potential disruptions that would accompany the opening of training camps this summer.”
One person told Maske, “I’m optimistic we’ll be able to have a season that starts relatively on time.”
For now, offseason activity is still scheduled. But an NFL spokesman told Maske that adjustments will be made as needed. The draft will go on as scheduled in April, but it will not involve the pomp and circumstance it was expected to have when the league scheduled it in Las Vegas. Instead, it will be held in a television studio.
After that would be minicamps and OTAs, which have been postponed indefinitely. Maske said “there is strong sentiment that those programs will be canceled entirely.” An owner told Maske he’d be “shocked” if any offseason programs took place.
As for training camps, which generally open in July, that will most likely determine whether the NFL can begin its season as scheduled in early September. One might reasonable assume that a shortened preseason would seemingly be in play, though the NFL clearly isn’t at a point to make such a determination.
From there, based on the language in Maske’s story, a shortened regular season seems to be a possibility to consider as well. The NFL may be motivated to shorten the regular season in order to keep the Super Bowl on schedule on Feb. 7 in Tampa. The new expanded postseason field, which goes into effect this season could make matter somewhat more complicated in terms of tiebreakers in a shortened season, though the new format does not add any weeks to the postseason.
Clearly, much of the scheduling and specifics have yet to be determined — just like seemingly everything else in the country. But for now, the story for the NFL season taking place as planned is one surrounded by cautious optimism.