As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the NFL continues to operate in the hopes of having a full 2020 season.
But exactly what will happen between now and the beginning of its 2020 regular season — and exactly what that season may look like — remains in question.
So to try to make sense of where things stand with the NFL — and the Seahawks — here is an attempt to answer some frequently asked questions.
Has the NFL had to make any concessions so far due to the pandemic?
The most significant change is that the NFL has had to conduct much of its offseason business virtually.
The NFL held its draft as scheduled last month, but did so virtually. And all 32 teams are currently holding their offseason programs virtually, as well.
What that means is that instead of teams holding meetings and workouts at their facilities, players are logging in to their computers for meetings with coaches to over the playbook and the other basic tasks of getting ready for the season.
The NFL also held its league meetings last week virtually.
What would teams have been doing differently now without the pandemic?
The most noteworthy is that teams would, over the last few weeks, have held on-field practices called organized team activities, workouts in which the entire team can take part but without contact, and with no full pads allowed. Teams are allowed 10 OTAs in a typical year.
But for now, the NFL is not allowing coaches or players at team facilities. So in lieu of OTAs, as mentioned above, teams are allowed to hold two hours of virtual meetings a day and two hours of virtual work outs.
The NFL last week announced that it would extend the period for holding the offseason program virtually for two more weeks.
For now, that is as far as the NFL has announced anything definitive about the rest of the offseason program.
The league did announce last week that it hopes coaches may be back in team facilities as soon as this week and some players by the end of the offseason program, which is set to conclude June 26. But it’s still unclear exactly when coaches and players will be back in facilities, if they are prior to the end of the offseason program.
What happens if the NFL says coaches can go back but not all states are in the same stages of reopening?
This, obviously, is a specifically relevant question for the Seahawks since the state of Washington, and King County in particular, might not be as widely open as early as some other NFL cities in other states.
The Seahawks are abiding by state restrictions and for now have kept their doors closed, though the league is allowing teams to have as many as 75 total non-playing or coaching staffers into team facilities, and the NFL last week said that teams will be allowed to reopen ticket offices and retail shops this week, if allowed under state/local guidelines.
The Seahawks may be able to open their facility to some employees once the state goes into Phase 2 of its reopening plan, which allows for small group gatherings of five people or fewer. But it’s unclear when King County will move into that phase.
But the league has made it clear it hopes to keep all teams on an even playing field when it comes to any work done by coaches and players.
In a memo released to all 32 teams Thursday, the NFL said that “reopening is conducted in a manner that is competitively fair.’’
That means that the league hopes that coaches will return to facilities all at once. Same as players.
To that end, the league stated it is “actively working with Governors and other state and local authorities in those states that have not yet announced definitive plans.’’
That seems to indicate that the NFL will do what it can to try to assure that either everyone is open or no one is, when it comes to coaches and players
But as with much of everything related to this, how the NFL would work with local governments to get coaches/players back in facilities uniformly is an unknown.
A general assumption is that teams are likely to remain in virtual mode through the end of the offseason program and the league will hope it has worked out how to return coaches and players to facilities — and, in the best-case scenario — to fields, by the time training camp begins in late July.
What else is included in the offseason program?
The offseason program concludes with teams holding a mandatory minicamp, which includes three on-field practices.
But unless teams get clearance to return to facilities, then the only way minicamp will be held is virtually, which seems to be the basic expectation of what will happen. The NFL has set June 26 as a date for the conclusion of the offseason program, meaning any iteration of a minicamp would have to be held by then.
The NFL has scheduled all of its preseason and regular-season games, correct?
Yes. The NFL has fully scheduled its season, a slate that is set to begin with the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, between the Steelers and Cowboys on Aug. 6.
But if the NFL has to delay training camps or its season, preseason games could be cut down or eliminated entirely.
The regular season is set to begin Sept. 10 with the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans (the Seahawks first game is set for Sept. 13 at Atlanta).
In general, the regular-season schedule was constructed pretty much as usual.
But the schedule was assembled with a few subtleties that would allow for shortening the season, if needed. Specifically, in weeks three and four there are no divisional games and every team has one home game and one road game. In other words, the league could just wipe out those two weeks to condense the schedule.
Have NFL teams had to make any financial cuts yet?
Teams have not, though commissioner Roger Goodell did announce in April that he would work without a salary and that there would be other pay cuts and furloughs in the league office.
But in terms of players and coaches and other personnel related to the games, the timing of the pandemic coming when it did early in the NFL’s offseason means that so far, the league has not suffered a real financial hit yet.
Teams are selling tickets as usual, though at the behest of the league, all 32 teams are also enacting a uniform policy for refunds should games not be played.
On the Seahawks website, the team states “if a game is not played a full refund or account credit will be provided.’’
The Seahawks have likewise said that they have deferred and flexible payment plans available for season-ticket holders who may not be able to pay due to the pandemic and can also “create a custom plan’’ if needed.
Could the league play games this fall without fans?
It could. NFL teams are estimated to get more than 60 percent of their revenue from the shared “national’’ pool of the league’s overall revenue, or meaning, basically, from its national TV contracts, which total more than $5 billion a year.
That obviously would make it worth the league trying to figure out how to play games regardless of whether fans can attend.
That, though, would obviously also mean a still-significant hit in revenue from ticket sales and what is other “local’’ revenue generated on gamedays.
A recent Forbes Magazine article estimated that the Seahawks would lose $156 million of their total of $439 million in revenue if games are played without fans.
That might require NFL teams to do some of the pocket-book tightening that has already been seen in Major League Baseball and some other sports.
However, for the 2020 season, players will apparently get full salaries as long as even one game, according to a recent report from Pro Football Talk, though they would not get any if no games are played.
But if games are played but without fans in 2020 and revenues shrink, then the money available for the salary cap in 2021 would also go down.
What’s unknown is how the league would deal with that decrease — taking it all on the 2021 season, which could cause some hard decisions regarding players already under contract for significant salaries, or try to spread out any decrease over multiple years to soften the hit next season?
As with almost everything related, there are lots of possibilities, but few concrete answers just yet.