The NFL said on Thursday it will make adjustments as necessary to keep players safe following comments from top U.S. health official Anthony Fauci who said football may not happen unless athletes live in a "bubble".
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN it would be hard to see football played this year unless athletes were quarantined in one closed-off community like the NBA plans to do at Disney World in July.
"Unless players are essentially in a bubble -- insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day -- it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall," said Fauci.
"If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year."
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL, which has 32 teams spread across the United States, has pushed ahead with plans to start the season as scheduled on Sept. 10, culminating with the Super Bowl in Tampa on Feb. 7.
NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills, in a report on the NFL website, said enacting a bubble was not "practical" but that Fauci identified important health and safety issues that the league is addressing to mitigate the health risk to players.
Sills also said the NFL is working on a rapid-result testing program and rigorous protocols that would call for a shared responsibility from everyone involved.
"Make no mistake, this is no easy task," said Sills. "We will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season as scheduled with increased protocols and safety measures for all players, personnel and attendees.
"We will be flexible and adaptable in this environment to adjust to the virus as needed."
The NFL has protocols in place for the opening of team facilities and training camps remain scheduled to open on July 22, despite high-profile positive tests, including Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. (Reporting by Steve Keating and Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ed Osmond)
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