The NFL’s chief medical officer said Thursday the league is hoping to start on time, but that widespread testing would have to be available before the reopening of the league can be contemplated.
Dr. Allen Sills said though the NFL wants to start the season as scheduled, it will wait for medical experts to first determine if the coronavirus pandemic has been slowed enough that it’s safe for players and fans alike.
“I would say that’s everyone’s hope, that we are in a position to do that,” Sills told NFL.com. “But the reality is none of us know those facts for certain right now. We hope and pray for the best and prepare for the worst, realizing that is one potential outcome that we will be back fully in business playing games as normal in front of fans on schedule. But it’s certainly not the only outcome.”
“And I think what was implied there was to say we are not at a point where we are saying that is absolutely not going to happen so we should continue our planning and preparations as if we’re going to be able to do that. But obviously we’re going to have to evaluate that along the way.”
The availability of coronavirus tests that can be easily administered in a widespread manner and give results quickly will be vitally important to deciding when teams can return to their facilities. Tests will have to be conducted on all members of the 32 teams.
“As long as we’re still in a place where when a single individual tests positive for the virus that you have to quarantine every single person who was in contact with them in any shape, form or fashion, then I don’t think you can begin to think about reopening a team sport,” Sills said.
The NFL — which on Tuesday said it’s planning to start the season on time — closed all 32 team facilities on March 25 with the advice of medical experts and public health authorities to stop the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
“We will make [all] those decisions in consultation with our experts at the time,” Sills said. “That decision will not be made in isolation. The NFL will not be charting a course different than other professional sports, other parts of society — college sports, universities, businesses.”
Teams may still have to relocate to other buildings or work from home to conduct the NFL Draft which will be held virtually on April 23-25 and follow social-distancing guidelines by not having 10 or more people in a room.