As a game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens originally scheduled for Thanksgiving prepares to kickoff nearly a week later on Wednesday afternoon due to a coronavirus outbreak, it's fair to wonder if the NFL can continue on for its final weeks and postseason.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, however, believes the league can do just that. In speaking with media and executives on Wednesday, Goodell noted that the NFL can “safely and responsibly complete the season," according to ProFootballTalk.
“It’s a remarkable achievement to reach this point and we are proud of our players and all personnel for their tireless work and commitment,” Goodell said. “Like our teams, we are focused on finishing strong.”
Goodell did note that health and safety are still the main priorities for the league and its players.
Playing amid the coronavirus pandemic without a bubble was always going to impose risks for the NFL and after a few initial weeks of postponed games, the league was able to sustain multiple weeks of consistent play with no interruptions.
Yet, as coronavirus cases surge across the country, the league has felt the impact as well. The outbreak in Baltimore not only postponed a game by nearly a week, but it forced Week 13 games to be shifted to Monday night as well. Additionally, the Denver Broncos played in Week 12 without an active quarterback due to all four of their passers being exposed to COVID-19.
With bye weeks nearly complete, finding ways to rearrange games will only become more challenging, even if a potential Week 18 is still in play.
Even with that, Goodell remains steadfast with the notion that the NFL will continue its season. Some have suggested that for that to be the case, the league may have to turn to an alternate plan, such as a bubble for the playoffs.
While The Athletic's Lindsey Jones reported that Goodell stated "all options are on the table," ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that a bubble is not something the league sees as necessary -- especially in just one place -- as they are confident in the protocols.
"We don’t see the bubble as most refer to it in one location. We feel strongly our protocols are working. We’re willing to adjust and adapt those protocols, take additional steps," Goodell said. "But I don’t see us doing the bubble in the sense that the media focuses on it."