"Our objective is for all teams to safely and responsibly complete the regular season within our 17-week schedule -- and have a full postseason, culminating with the Super Bowl with fans in the stands on February 7th in Tampa," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week as the league embarked on the second half of the season.
"We are committed to completing the season as scheduled."
It's a tall order, as coronavirus infections and deaths surge across the country in a fall and winter wave that Americans have expected for months. Largely praised for its stringent pandemic protocols, the NFL has reached a crucial point in its quest to become the nation's first major sport to play a full and mostly uninterrupted season during the health crisis.
"Getting to the Super Bowl, it's completely possible," said Tara Kirk Sell, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. "It really depends on both your tolerance for risk and tolerance for having cases. And if you really don't care about having too many cases, then there's really no problem, right? I do think the league has done a lot of good things to reduce risk. The question is: Is that enough? And it's going to get so much harder going forward."
'Much more work to be done'