A later and more "compact" NFL season?

You know, I was sort of okay with everyone being told they had to lock themselves in their homes like prisoners because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. I managed to look past the fact that you suddenly couldn’t find a can of tuna fish in the supermarket to save your life. I was even willing to trust that our local store would restock the toilet paper before we totally ran out. But if the response to this pandemic means that it’s going to impact the start of the NFL season, I say we grab some torches, head out into the streets and burn this mother down.

And yet, that’s exactly what might be happening. The league had previously said that they still planned to move forward with the regular season as scheduled. But now the NFL is releasing some proposed “alternate” scheduling options, including not starting until nearly Halloween, canceling the pre-season and pushing the Superbowl out until the end of February. (NY Post)

Schedule-makers are in the process of designing several versions of the 2020 slate, some of which include a Super Bowl on Feb. 28, the regular season starting as late as Thursday, Oct. 15 and a season without bye weeks or a Pro Bowl, according to Sports Business Daily.

It marks a striking, but also unsurprising about-face in the league’s thinking since the end of March, when NFL executive vice president and general counsel Jeff Pash said he was “planning on having a full season,” and “in the same way” as previous years. Since then commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league is prepared to make changes as the coronavirus pandemic has left many professional leagues around the world, including the NFL, with uncertain futures.

The schedules are expected to be released early next month and include the standard 16-game, 17-week slate but will allow for flexibility, if necessary.

All joking aside, none of these changes seem all that drastic and might not impact the outcome of the season anyway. Right off the bat, if they decided to skip the Pro Bowl this year, would anyone really notice or care? It’s one of the lowest-rated games every season.

If they “compress” the season by doing away with the bye weeks, that will have some impact, at least from the perspective of the coaches and players. Teams use the bye weeks to rest up, give injured players a chance to heal and maybe get in a few extra practices to fine-tune strategies for the upcoming games. But the NFL didn’t originally put them in for that reason. They wanted to stretch the season out for an extra week so there would be more televised games and hence more advertising dollars. Plus, they start byes in week four before most teams are really all that banged up.

But this could definitely impact the post-season. A recent rule change set us up for an even larger number of teams making it into the playoffs. How they’re going to arrange this is a mystery.

One big question is what they plan to do about the stadiums if parts of the country are still on lockdown in the fall. Or even worse, if we get hit with another coronavirus season going into the winter that’s even worse. But they should be able to play in an empty stadium with no fans, right? There are 55 players on the active roster for each game and another 15 on the practice squad. Add in the coaches, trainers and other staff and you’ve still got a reasonable number of people that you could test every week for the virus.

All I know is I don’t want the NFL season to disappear, and I’m sure a lot of other fans feel the same way. Surely there’ a way to keep football alive, even in the midst of a pandemic. We seriously need the stress relief. And besides, this is the year when the Jets are finally going to make it back to the Superbowl. I guarantee it!