Against the Giants on Sunday, the Washington Football Team will allow 3,000 fans to be in attendance at FedExField while following strict COVID-19 protocols. Given that the stadium can hold 82,000 patrons, that number seems minimal.
In 2020, however, 3,000 fans will make a big difference. Head coach Ron Rivera knows that each added cheer will do wonders for the team, as he even felt a greater atmosphere when just friends and family were allowed in on Sundays.
“I think that it’s going to be cool, I really do," Rivera said. "I did feel the friends and family against Dallas, and that was kind of special, that really was.”
In a season amid the coronavirus pandemic, it's become clear that football can operate rather normally, and players can still perform at an elite level, even when the seats are empty. Still, there's no denying that the support from spectators brings something entirely distinct to the experience.
When it comes to a big third-down play, it's the fans that bring the extra momentum.
“I mean, I think it really brings the energy to our team when we see our fans out there. We know we have their support from home. but it’s different, you come out there and you see guys, men and women in that Burgundy and Gold," wide receiver Terry McLaurin said. "I think it gives you extra pep in your step, I know it helps our defense, adds to their energy.
“Hopefully the 3,000 people that are there can have an effect on the opposing offense and their operation and things like that, just give us an added boost," McLaurin said. "But I think it’s gonna be cool to have our fans back this weekend.”
During a normal season, 3,000 fans at a game would not be something to celebrate. Yet, in the wild year that is 2020, it's a move in the right direction as fans and players are eager to bring back an important aspect of the game. With a major focus on safety amid the pandemic, they understand that this move is the right one.
While Rivera would love to bring back a full crowd, he also sees a positive in slowly adding to the numbers of fans allowed at games. Absence has only made the heart grow fonder when it comes to the relationship between a team and its supporters, and so by slowly adding to the attendance, the elation on both sides only grows.
“I’m excited about it, I know our players will be excited about it," Rivera said. "It’s really kind of cool to slowly integrate fans back into the game because we truly do miss them."