Beyond fans returning to stadiums and authentic cheers instead of simulated noise, the NFL is kicking off the 2021 season with something it didn’t have last fall — a pandemic playbook that’s proven.
As other leagues staged abbreviated seasons and quarantined their players in hopes of shielding them from COVID-19, the NFL navigated its way through an entire schedule, postponing when necessary, continually adjusting safety protocols, but never canceling a game.
“The NFL proved things that I don’t think people thought we could do,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.
In multiple interviews with the Los Angeles Times, Goodell and more than two dozen people — league executives, front-office personnel, players and medical professionals — close to the situation reconstructed the fragile process of staging a season amid a pandemic, and the commissioner’s focus to safely complete all 256 regular-season games, the playoffs and Super Bowl without relying on an NBA-style bubble.
A league that at times has had a fraught relationship with its players found common ground, with executive director of the NFL Players Assn. DeMaurice Smith saying the players and NFL management worked together to make sure they could play a full season.
That bond has been tested this offseason as the Delta variant spurred a new surge in cases and vaccine hesitancy cropped up throughout the league, but the NFL likely will draw on its wins from last season as it pushes to overcome new hurdles in this one.
“History will look back at last year and say it was more than just a little remarkable that we were able to play the season uninterrupted,” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said. “It really was incredible and special for the country what we were able to deliver to fans and people who needed a distraction and something to enjoy.”
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SOURCE: Yahoo! Sports, Sam Farmer