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Notes: Growing concern NFL season won’t begin on time

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Crowdless games? Delayed season? No season at all?

USA, Michigan, Detroit, Ford Field... Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

As the NFL continues with the draft on schedule, the future of the league remains very much in question. Though teams were notified that they could begin with virtual offseason activities starting next week, the prospect of an actual NFL season remains very much up in the air.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s top immunologists and the face of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told Snapchat show “Good Luck America” that the best chance sports have to returning to action is to do so without a live audience.

“There’s a way of doing that,” Fauci said. “Nobody comes to the stadium, put (the players) in big hotels where you want to play, keep them very well surveilled, but have them tested like every week. Make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family and just let them play the season out.”

But Dr. Jeffrey Smith, the chief executive for Santa Clara County, was much more pessimistic about the league’s chances of starting their 2020 season on time at all, calling a need for a “major miracle” to happen in order to have the virus contained enough for sports. Even Fauci’s proposition he views as too much of a risk.

“It puts the entire country at risk,” Smith told ESPN. “The fundamental thing is sports is not a local event. If you have people traveling from all over and you have no way of knowing whether they’re infected or not.”

There is also the debate about jurisdiction and who makes the final decision about when sports leagues return to action. For example, California law allows health officials to “take any action” to prevent the spread of disease, and Smith’s department intends to use that power, if necessary.

“Neither the federal government nor the state government have the legal authority to contravene the public health officers,” said Smith, who is also a lawyer. “The law was set up very specifically to make the public health officers’ decision an apolitical decision.”

So what happens if the NFL decides to return to action, but health officials in certain states fail to authorize it?

Hopefully that’s a question we won’t have to eventually answer.

On to the rest of today’s notes:

  • Justin Rogers of the Detroit New went back and graded the Detroit Lions’ 2017 draft class after three seasons of work. Outside of Kenny Golladay, things got ugly.

  • NFL Draft analyst Charles Davis chatted with Tori Petry about what the Lions may do with their draft picks next week:

  • The Lions were one of a long list of teams that had a video conference with Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins, per Aaron Wilson:

  • This came across the official NFL Throwback Twitter account Wednesday and it made me miss football.