As the NFL continues to push on with their offseason schedule of events, there’s been some minor adjustments to a few things already. First, due to vote on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the time where teams had to designate a franchise chat tag was adjusted. But even with that minor change, the NFL pushed forward with the start of their league year.
Next, in the face of a worldwide pandemic due to the coronavirus outbreak, professional sports in the United States and around the world have basically come to a standstill. Being the offseason, the NFL pushed forward with their timeline as they continue to hold the NFL draft on the original date although the location and procedures have been changed. The league has shut down team facilities in order to help keep social distancing, and player pro days and interviews have been transitioned to teleconference gatherings.
Before the draft, fans are usually given the complete NFL schedule for the upcoming season. Not making a major announcement as to when it will be released, the NFL usually gives a couple days notice before releasing the schedule to the public. But with everything going on in the world and the uncertainty as to when we can gather together collectively to cheer on our favorite teams, can the NFL push forward with the schedule at this time?
As I was writing this piece, a report surfaced where the release of the schedule will not happen when typically done before the draft. Instead, the NFL is targeting a date early in May according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
NFL schedule release likely to be around May 9. Not corona-related. That apparently was the plan anyway.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 31, 2020
The claim by the NFL is our current social distancing practices and the shutdown of nonessential operations in most cities is not a factor in the delay of the scheduled release. While fear of not being able to hold the NFL season come September may not be the reason for when the schedule will be made public, other factors involved could very well be why the schedule will not come out until early May or evenly get pushed later.
Although the NFL hopes to hold their games in September, scheduling around other professional sports it’s going to be much more difficult. In many cities, the game day facilities for things such as parking and public transportation are utilized by multiple professional teams in a close proximity. The NFL has generally scheduled around events by Major League Baseball, with a prime example being the Baltimore Ravens having to open their season on the road as Super Bowl champions in 2013 due to the Baltimore Orioles hosting a game the same night. But can they trust the baseball schedule at this point? It is obviously going to be changed as they are already missing the beginning of their season. Should the NFL take into consideration the changes in MLB schdule, or should they merely just schedule around what they know at this time? It’s just one other factor which could complicate things.
Another issue in the developing a schedule is the NFL office and their employees during this time. If the majority of those working on the schedule are forced to work remotely, it could affect how they work their process of coming up with the best schedule. Although a computer comes up with several different scenarios, things also get adjusted by actual human beings from a base schedule the league feels is the best starting point. Not being able to gather all the parties working on the schedule in the one room and “pound it out” is one reality which could slow down the process.
While teams are going to be missing out on various offseason training activities over the next few weeks, it is doubtful these cancellations/postponements will affect the start of the NFL season if our society is back to normal by the end of the summer. If the player lock out of 2011 taught us anything, it is the NFL will condense whatever they need to do in order to start their season.
As many people across the country are looking for a sense of normalcy, the NFL holding their draft and releasing a schedule fans is welcomed as we can look forward to a time where we can once again gather together in support of our teams. If the NFL has no plans of altering their schedule at this time, the closer it is released to when it is normally given out will help us all to feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If nothing more, it gives us something else we can talk about during these difficult times.