Full steam ahead for the NFL, for now.
With other major professional North American sporting leagues attempting to salvage seasons heavily affected by the coronavirus outbreak, the NFL is making preparations for a full, uninhibited season.
The league revealed that it will announce its full, 17-week regular-season schedule on Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET. As always, Week 1 is slated to kick off after Labor Day with Super Bowl LV set for the first Sunday in February.
It is believed that plans are being made to tweak the schedule if the COVID-19 pandemic remains as serious an issue as it currently is. Expect to see out-of-conference games for each team early on in the schedule with divisional matchups set for the final weeks of the season.
On Monday, the NFL canceled all its international games, which were set to take place in London and Mexico City.
Saturday games are not anticipated on the schedule, which dispels any hope that the NFL could help complete a full football weekend if college football — which normally plays on Saturdays — is affected.
As it stands, holding games with fans in attendance has not been written off, unlike other major sporting leagues where restarts are contingent on playing in empty stadiums.
The NFL’s contingency plans do include no fans or bye weeks should the virus persist at these levels, per reports. If it intensifies, the start of the season could be moved back to mid-October.
Neutral sites or centralized locations are not an option at this time.
This could be the NFL’s final season in which teams play 16 games in the regular season. The new CBA passed earlier this year gives the league the option of adding a 17th game to the schedule as early as 2021.