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Goodell: 2020 NFL season “will not look like other years”

National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell (Getty Images)

National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell said in a new open letter sent to fans that the upcoming 2020 season “will not look like other years” due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and stressed the need for continued adaptability to changing circumstances.

Days after the league and NFL Players Association reached a comprehensive agreement on the operational and financial impacts of the pandemic, Goodell confirmed that deal’s elimination of the 2020 preseason schedule and warned fans of more changes to come this year.

“Covid-19 will continue to present a major challenge to nearly every area of American life. Football is no exception,” Goodell wrote.

“The NFL in 2020 will not look like other years. Players and coaches will be tested for the virus regularly, including every day for a while. Preseason games have been canceled. Everyone in the team environment must follow rigorous health and safety protocols to keep themselves and each other safe. When there is a positive test, strict regulations will be enforced to isolate and care for that individual and to contain the virus before it spreads. Even the sideline will look different. And, state and local health guidelines will help determine whether fans will attend the games. These adjustments are necessary to reduce the risk for everyone involved,” he wrote.

Several teams including the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots have already detailed plans for sharply limited attendance, if local health authorities allow fans to attend at all.

The commissioner in the letter stressed the need for all parties to remain flexible as the season unfolds, and also cited a retooled, virtually staged 2020 NFL Draft that generated strong reviews and record ratings.

“Even the best game plan changes as new challenges arise,” Goodell wrote. “This year’s NFL Draft is a good example that embracing change can still deliver the fun and excitement we all crave.”

The NFL is resuming play in a market-based plan similar to Major League Baseball, which is now facing a stiff challenge from a virus outbreak within the Miami Marlins organization. But Goodell is still seeking to find optimism within his league’s operational plan.

“This week training camps across the country are starting and before we know it, the NFL season will be here,” Goodell wrote. “This is always the most optimistic time of year for our fans, and for all 32 teams. In a year that has been extraordinarily difficult for our country and the world, we hope the energy of this moment will provide some much-needed optimism.”