Though the NFL has yet to push back any major events because of the coronavirus pandemic, its chief medical officer on Thursday cautioned many steps remain before the league might be able to resume on-field activities.
Dr. Allen Sills told NFL.com that widespread testing would need to be available before the league could even contemplate reopening the league for full business.
On Tuesday, NFL executive vice president and general counsel Jeff Pash said the league expects to start the 2020 season as scheduled with the Kansas City Chiefs opening Week 1 against an as-yet unnamed opponent on Thursday, Sept. 10.
"That's our expectation. Am I certain? I'm not certain I'll be here tomorrow. But I'm planning on it," Pash said.
NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent added the NFL's plan is for a "full" and "normal" regular season.
"I don't think that I would interpret those comments to say that that is absolutely what's going to happen," Sills said of the comments about the season running on time and in full.
Sills added that getting point-of-care testing and a quick turnaround on results would be critical to decision-making when it comes to reopening facilities. Government-mandated lockdowns and stay-at-home orders will also be a consideration, according to the report, as allowing some teams to reopen facilities while others are forced to keep theirs closed could become a competitive-balance issue.
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"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. "Because we're going to have positive cases for a very long time."
According to the report, Sills added that it will be difficult to look at how large groups of fans could be allowed to gather for a game until a vaccine is available.
"We will make 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."
The NFL last week shut down all team facilities for at least two weeks.