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REPORT: State-by-State NFL status

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Governors will have to re-open states for some teams to play

In this photo illustration the American football league The... Photo Illustration by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is not running the league – COVID-19 is.

Although there is a contingency plan for the 2020 season, part of the problem facing the NFL is the fact that numerous clubs may not have a home base to play their games. Not that these franchises will close up for the year, but may have to relocate in order to hold their home games until the governors of each of these states allow sports franchises to again begin play.

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The health and safety of those involved remains an issue. There is not a single NFL facility that can re-open until each state government has given the go-ahead to once again begin operations for each team’s practice facilities as well as their stadium.

Which is unlikely in many states.

The NFLPA as well as Goodell are all in agreement with this aspect. Neither are suggesting at this point that fans can actually attend games with contests suggesting cavernous stadiums echoing the quarterback’s cadence. But games broadcasted on national television would certainly save the season.

What the NFL does not want to do under any circumstance, is for certain clubs to become fully road teams. The league can simply take the existing schedule and place a team at another stadium instead and keep the existing format. Certainly logistics would have to be worked out, such as proper stadiums in re-opened states, contracts, hotel accommodations for players, coaches and other club personnel. The NFL would also prefer, but not mandate, that these clubs play as close as possible to their existing city in order for television coverage to still remain regional.

The NFL is basically powerless to demand that certain stadiums and facilities open up just to play professional football when everything else remains closed. State governors list sporting events near the bottom third of their priority list. And there are certain states that may not re-open completely until next year.

There are a total of 23 states which house an NFL club. Which states are currently being questioned whether they allow games to resume? Let’s look at each state, with the least plausible first. Next, an attempt to project where these teams can call their new home.

California (74, 947 cases)

This state appears grim. The governor, Gavin Newsom, has stated that he has his doubts that any sporting event will be played in his state in the fall. This affects the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers and the NFC Champions San Francisco 49ers. Newsom has noted this is regardless of whether actual fans would be allowed in attendance.

“It’s difficult for me to imagine a stadium that’s filled until we have immunity, until we have a vaccine,” Newsom said in a media briefing. “… Imagine what the league — broadly, leagues — do when one or two of their key personnel or players are tested positive. Do they quarantine the rest of the team if an offensive lineman is practicing with a defensive lineman, and they are tested positive? What happens to the rest of the line? What happens for the game coming up next weekend? It’s inconceivable to me that that’s not a likely scenario. … It’s a very tough question for these leagues to answer, because they must have a safety-first, health-first mindset — and there are conditions that persist in this state and this nation that make reopening very, very challenging.”

Both the Rams and Chargers were to begin play this year in the brand new SoFi Stadium, the $5 billion showcase in Inglewood, CA. The planned opening date was July 25 that coincided with a Taylor Swift concert, but construction on the facility has had repeated delays because of the coronavirus. There have been several positive cases of the virus at the construction site which has placed numerous pauses in the construction. Currently, a new opening date has not been released.

Portland, Oregon would be a perfect place for the 49ers to call home, but Oregon Governor Kate Brown has already announced that large gatherings will be prohibited until the end of September.

Possible alternate home stadiums (virus cases in parentheses):

49ers: Salt Lake City, Utah (6,700)

Rams: St. Louis, Missouri (10,400)

Chargers: Phoenix, Arizona (12,674)

Pennsylvania (63,158 cases)

Governor Tom Wolf seems certain that his state will not see any fall sports this year. If anything, there will be more lockdown orders than there are now with Wolf taking a hard stance on violators. It also does not appear that Wolf can be influenced or pressured to re-open Pennsylvania until the time is right. There is a plan in place, albeit very cautiously. Designated by colors, each color-coded phase will allow certain businesses, public utilities and regions to re-open in limited groupings. The first and second phases labeled “red” and “yellow” prohibit large gatherings. So far, there isn’t a timeline set for each phase to begin but rather as stabilization occurs.

“A target goal for reopening has been set at having fewer than 50 new confirmed cases per 100,000 population reported to the department in the previous 14 days. So, for example, an area with a population of 800,000 people would need to have fewer than 400 new confirmed cases reported in the past 14 days to meet the target. An assessment will determine if the target goal has been met. The administration will work closely with county and local governments to enable the communities to reopen and transition back to work.”

Possible alternate home stadiums (virus cases in parentheses):

Eagles: Washington, D.C. (6,871)

Steelers: Milwaukee, Wisconsin (11,200)

New York (348,192 cases)

By far the most infected state, the numbers have begun to trend downward. But each day, more and more scheduled events are canceled including the world’s largest brat festival. Governor Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly stated that any fall sport in his state is doubtful. This affects the Buffalo Bills only.

“I’d love to see sports back, help with cabin fever, but this isn’t about hopes and dreams and aspirations None of us like being here. Follow the data, follow the science, let the professionals tell us when it’s safe to reopen.”

Possible alternate home stadiums (virus cases in parentheses):

Bills: Toronto, Ontario Canada (21,400)

New Jersey (142,704 cases)

Governor Phil Murphy has not said anything solid on when his state will re-open, nor has he given any preview of the status of professional sports. The numbers are on the down tick, however, but not even close to offer a definitive partial re-opening scenario yet. Both the Football Giants and Jets play in this state just outside New York City. The state recently re-opened parks, forests, golf courses plus the Jersey Shore and has a plan for a gradual phasing. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated both the Giants and Jets will not be playing in his state.

“By the end of the week, we will talk about some other steps we could take to gently reopen things. I don’t have anything specific today, but more on that in the coming days. We run the risk of presenting an on off switch, which is not going to happen,” Murphy said. “There isn’t going to be one magic day when everything is open. We’re going to take a series of incremental steps.”

Possible alternate home stadiums (virus cases in parentheses):

Giants: Hartford, Connecticut (35,464)

Jets: Ottawa, Ontario Canada (2,760)

Massachusetts (82,182 cases)

Governor Charlie Baker set a re-opening timeline into four parts beginning May 18. Although various businesses will begin to establish operations, so far Baker has been vague on sporting events taking place this fall including the New England Patriots. The likely scenario will be success at each phase and whether the next phase takes place.

“We’re anxious to try to get everybody back up and going as soon as it makes sense. The goal of the reopening plan is to methodically allow certain businesses, services and activities to resume, protecting public health and limiting a possible resurgence of new COVID-19 cases. … We would like to have a successful opening. Part of the way we have a successful phased opening is people pay attention to and act on the guidance. That, at this point, is sort of universally understood and appreciated as stuff that people can do. People need to understand how important what they do is as individuals and organizations is going to be to the success of reopening as we go forward.”

Possible alternate home stadiums (virus cases in parentheses):

Patriots: Concord, New Hampshire (3,382)

Louisiana (33,489 cases)

Governor John Bel Edwards realizes his state still has lots of issues with the virus. He has stated that considering fall sports at this point is not worth talking about and so far is uncommitted about any form of re-opening. This places the New Orleans Saints season in jeopardy, even to an empty stadium. On May 15, the state did move towards a Phase 1 stage with heavy restrictions.

“There are gonna have to be some precautions taken and what those might look like, I don’t know. Right now, the data shows improvement, and we also now have a much more robust testing and contract tracing program underway, which will allow us to better identify cases and isolate those who may have been infected. However, we are not out of the woods and if we see a dramatic spike in cases, we may have to increase restrictions. Our lives will not go back to normal for some time.”

Possible alternate home stadiums (virus cases in parentheses):

Saints: San Antonio, Texas (45,169)

Colorado (20,813 cases)

This state will most likely follow the lead of the Western States pact, which includes California, Washington, Nevada, Oregon and Colorado as far as fall sports. Governor Jared Polis has not made any commitment to either re-establishing sports or the cancellation of these events. Newsome has indicated he is doubtful that the Denver Broncos will play this fall in his state, but has not ruled it out either.

Possible alternate home stadiums (virus cases in parentheses):

Broncos: Memphis, Tennessee (16,500)

Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Virginia (27,813 cases)

To date, public gatherings are still banned. Governor Ralph Northam had planned on instituting Phase 1 May 14, but delayed that executive order due to its two largest cities had increases in the virus recently. Bars and restaurants remain closed as may the Washington Redskins whose home field is located in Maryland but headquarters and training camp reside in Virginia.

“Any options for the fall sports season would require that COVID-19 no longer be a threat and pose no health risks to athletes or the public. Sadly, the situation has not changed and has made it impossible to have a fall season without putting people at risk.”

Possible alternate home stadiums (virus cases in parentheses):

Redskins: Washington, D.C. (6,871)

Minnesota (13,400 cases)

Things are very iffy in Minnesota as Governor Tim Walz has canceled the State Fair, an enormously popular event held every August. As far as the Minnesota Vikings season, Walz has made comments that there may not be any hope of that happening although sports at the youth level are in the works. Even so, he has stated blatantly that fans would not become a part of the process nor considered as currently the standards are only allowed in groups of 10 or less.

“I wouldn’t make a definitive call [on the fair], but I also don’t want to give any false hope on this or any other large gatherings. I think it will be difficult to see a State Fair operating. … I don’t know how you social distance in there and other large arenas.”

Possible alternate home stadiums (virus cases in parentheses):

Vikings: Milwaukee, Wisconsin (11,200)

North Carolina (16,593 cases)

On May 8, Governor Roy Cooper began a multiphase plan to re-open his state. He is waiting to see if the virus decreases or not before he will commit to anything else. He has not made any stance on fall sports or spectators so far and has taken a wait-and-see approach at this juncture. This means the Carolina Panthers may have to find new digs.

Possible alternate home stadiums (virus cases in parentheses):

Panthers: Atlanta, Georgia (34,422)

Michigan (49,489 cases)

It is very likely the Lions will play in Detroit, although almost a certainty without fans. Governor Gretchen Whitmer expressed her optimism in a recent radio interview regarding the subject.

“There is reason to feel some confidence here. But we also have to measure [people’s] expectations and say life’s going to be different. We’re not going to be filling stadiums in the fall.”

Illinois (88,081 cases)

The governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, has a daily news conference on all aspects of his state regarding the virus. With sporting events, he appears optimistic that fall sporting events will be played including the Chicago Bears. He has stated, however, that it is unlikely fans will be in attendance.

“If the nation isn’t in a state where we can have tens of thousands of people together in a stadium, then I don’t think you’re going to see football opening up to having fans in the stands,” Pritzker said. “… However, you may know that many of the leagues and teams — and I have spoken with many of them — are considering opening their seasons or continuing their seasons without fans in the stands so that people can enjoy sports online or on TV.”

Texas (45,169 cases)

Despite high numbers, these seem relatively low considering how large the state actually is. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, has already been very assertive in re-opening as much of the state as possible already. It doesn’t hurt that he and Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones are good buddies either. On May 18, gyms will be allowed to open back up, so NFL training camps such as the Cowboys and Houston Texans won’t be far behind. Restaurants. libraries, museums and movie theaters are already once again doing business although with restrictions.

“Now it’s time to set a new course, a course that responsibly opens up business in Texas. Just as we united as one state to slow COVID-19, we must also come together to begin rebuilding the lives and the livelihoods of our fellow Texans.”

US-HEALTH-VIRUS-FOOD Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images

Washington (18,964 cases)

Governor Jay Inslee has left the door open for fall sports to occur, although he did mention it would likely be in empty stadiums. Inslee has developed a four-phase plan that began May 11 in which Phase 3 could happen as early as July 1 just in time for Seattle Seahawks training camp.

“Right now, if I had a dollar to bet I’d bet that we’re going to have football in the fall. But the virus gets a vote on this, and we’ve got to make decisions to save lives.”

Florida (43,202 cases)

Governor Ron DeSantis has said that fall sports are probably going to happen. In fact, Little League baseball has already been given the green light. Restaurants are now open with restrictions, but also have a timeline that will allow more customers soon. DeSantis is so sure that all of its NFL clubs will play this year that he has opened up the state to other NFL teams to call his state their home base in 2020 if needed. That’s good news for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“What I would tell commissioners of leagues is: ‘If you have a team in an area where they just won’t let them operate, we’ll find a place for ya in the state of Florida. Because we think it’s important, and we know that it can be done safely.”

Georgia (34,422 cases)

Georgia was the first to basically re-open just about everything. Governor Brian Kemp has a plan in place that is moving forward with bringing his state back to normalcy. Kemp is also under the impression that the NFL and his Atlanta Falcons will compete as usual, although he did question whether fans would be in attendance.

“In Georgia, COVID-19 hospitalizations, ventilator use, and the percentage of positive cases continue to drop. However, we remain vigilant in the fight against this dangerous virus. By taking measured steps forward — guided by data, science and the advice of public health experts — we will protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians.”

Indiana (26,627 cases)

Things look promising in the state as Governor Eric Holcomb has already implemented a phase re-opening process. Little League is set to begin June 14 and Holcomb stated that fall sports may resume July 1, just in time for Indianapolis Colts training camp to open. Fan attendance is currently not settled.

“When we look at keeping our fans and athletes safe and what their experience will be. So if our football team can play, our fans should be able to be in the stadium and watch them play.”

Ohio (26,363 cases)

Governor Mike DeWine has already stated that Ohio State will play this fall. Apparently, that is the only team that plays in the state of Ohio as he omitted mentioning any other fall sports squads. When asked about fan attendance, DeWine was skeptical. Apparently the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals will still call Ohio home.

“Well, look, first of all, it’s much, much too early. The one thing we’ve found about this virus is there’s a lot we don’t know about it. We’re going to have respect for it. … I would certainly think [Ohio State] could figure out how to do a season. Can we go watch them? I think it’s much too early to be making that [decision].”

Tennessee (16,500 cases)

The state re-opened in early May but has social guidelines in place. Governor Bill Lee’s plan is to have the entire state back to normal at some point in the fall. Although he has not addressed the NFL season, there will be games played. The only question at this point is whether fans will be allowed inside to watch them. Gyms are now open as well as most businesses which will pave the way for the Tennessee Titans to open training camp as scheduled.

“These guidelines outline best practices in keeping with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and health experts for gyms to reopen in a way that will keep their employees and customers safe.”

Arizona (12,600 cases)

Governor Doug Ducey has stated that pro sports may resume with limitations on May 16. Whatever the sport, fans are not being considered for Arizona Cardinals games.

“There would be no fans allowed as part of those operations and that franchises would be expected to implement public health protections and CDC guidelines as part of the reopening process.”

Wisconsin (11,200 cases)

The stay-at-home order issued by Governor Tony Evers was thrown out by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, so Evers more than likely will not have any say on Green Bay Packers game or any other sporting events with or without fans.

“There are no restrictions at all across the state of Wisconsin. So at this point in time … there is nothing that’s compelling people to do anything other than having chaos here.”

Missouri (10,400 cases)

So far, Governor Mike Parson has been very noncommittal to whether the Kansas City Chiefs may or may not play. He did, however, state that if fall sports take place, these events would look different than in the past.

“The reality of it is that I think things will change. I’m not sure what those changes will be, but do I think football will be back this fall? Yes, I do.”

Allegiant Stadium Under Construction Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada (6,600 cases)

Also a member of the Western States pact, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak has stated that he will do whatever the other states decide as far as fall sports. There is also the question of whether the brand new Allegiant Stadium will be available for games in time for the season opener because of construction delays based directly to the coronavirus. Whether the Las Vegas Raiders play or not in the state, fans are almost a certainty to not be present.

“The governor’s office is in frequent communication with the other states in the Western States Pact to discuss best practices and share ideas as it relates to COVID-19. These conversations help inform actions Nevada may take in its state-specific reopening plan.”