In one of its most significant alterations because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the NFL is expected to cut its preseason from four games to two, according to multiple reports Wednesday.
Pro Football Talk reported that the NFL will make an official announcement of the move, which will scrap weeks one and four, Thursday.
The NFL Network reported later in the day that nothing regarding changes to the preseason schedule has been approved by the NFL Players Association and that there are some within the leadership of the union who would prefer that there not be any preseason games. The NFL Network reported there will be a call among the union’s representatives Thursday that “should further shed light” on what will happen with the preseason.
The NFL Network reported that the league wants to play at least two preseason games because teams want them as a way to get ready for the regular season. But the league may need to convince the players those games are necessary to get the union’s approval.
What seems clear is that there will not be the full four preseason games for the first time since 1978, when the league went to a 16-game regular-season schedule.
PFT reported that the move to cut two preseason games is being made to give players more time to get in game shape since teams were not allowed to have on-field workouts during the spring and to cut down on the amount of travel.
The Seahawks were scheduled to open the preseason Aug. 13 against the Raiders in Seattle. They were scheduled to play at Houston on Aug. 22, host the Chargers on Aug. 27 and play at Minnesota on Sept. 3.
That means Seattle could still have preseason games against Houston and the Chargers.
Some reports stated there could be tweaks to the schedule to assure every team has a home and road game and to eliminate as much travel as possible.
Carolina, Kansas City, Minnesota and Washington are scheduled to be on the road in weeks two and three while Miami, Buffalo, Dallas and Tampa Bay are scheduled to be home those weeks, which could necessitate changes in their schedules.
The NFL plans to begin training camp July 28 for most teams (Kansas City and Houston will get to start earlier since they are scheduled for the opening Thursday night game).
Cutting two preseason games will allow for a longer “ramp-up’’ time for players to get back in game shape following the long layoff. Coaches and players have cited that there was an increase in injuries in 2011 when there was no offseason program due to the lockout.
ESPN reported that week one of the preseason will be played Aug. 20-24 and week two on Aug. 27-31.
That will also mean a longer break than usual before the first game of the regular season. The Seahawks are scheduled to open the regular season Sept. 13 at Atlanta.
The move comes as the NFL continues to work toward a full regular season with the COVID-19 outbreak showing no signs of slowing down. The NFL has so far been able to keep much of its routine, including holding the draft as scheduled, though doing so virtually. The league unveiled full preseason and regular-season schedules in May.
Cutting the preseason had been rumored for a while. The league is already expected to cut to three preseason games in 2021 when the regular season is expected to expand to 17.
Preseason games are included in team’s season- ticket packages, and the Seahawks recently posted on their website that “if a game is not played, a full refund or account credit will be provided.’’
In recent days there have also been rumors that teams may try to fly on the day of road games, if possible. Since the Seahawks have five trips to the Eastern time zone that would be tough. It’s also been rumored that the league could, for this year, cut training camp rosters from 90 to 75 or 80 in an attempt to limit exposure to the virus.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said last month that he had no issues with cutting back the preseason, saying “it makes sense because of the time frame we are talking about.”
The NFL hopes it can play games with fans in the stands. A report from The Athletic on Wednesday said that the league is considering having fans sign “a coronavirus liability waiver.”
But the shortening of the preseason shows that the league will have to consider making additional alterations.
Carroll said in June that the Seahawks had been told by the state that the team will be able to follow NFL guidelines for training camp even if the state is in a different phase of opening than others.
Carroll acknowledged that the team is preparing for a number of different scenarios for the season knowing that plans may have to continue to change.
“We have to be wide open,’’ he said. “Ready to adapt.’’