NFL: How it could use the MLB as guinea pigs ahead of 2020 season
"My guess would be there are multiple schedules in their mind that start either later, have a shortened version, maybe 12 or 14 games, maybe there's one that starts a little bit later and then the Super Bowl is pushed back."
By Cameron Hogwood
Last Updated: 07/05/20 6:21pm
"Nothing is off the table" for the NFL as they continue to weigh up their options ahead of the 2020 season, says NFL Network's James Palmer.
The league, like most sporting organisations across the world, finds itself in a logistical conundrum amid the coronavirus pandemic. What it does have in its favour, however, is time on its side to plan for multiple scenarios.
Palmer warns that could mean changes further down the line to the 2020 schedule, which is due to be released at 1am UK time on Friday morning.
"I do think every fan watching that gets excited about 'my team is playing them here, on this day' and you finally know when these matchups are going to happen," Palmer told Sky Sports News. "I do think you have to take it with a grain of just 'this may not be 100 per cent set in stone'.
"I think the league putting this out is great for all of us to talk about, but I do think you have to realistically look at it and say this isn't 100 per cent set in stone.
"There is still a lot of time and some things that could happen to where this has to be changed."
Roger Goodell was one of 13 league and competition commissioners to meet with president Donald Trump last month for discussions surrounding the resumption of sport in the United States.
The NBA and NHL seasons are both currently on hold, while the MLB has been forced to postpone the start of its campaign, which had been due to get underway in late March.
Palmer believes the NFL could look to their sporting neighbours for guidance in their decision-making process as they work towards a typical September opening.
"I do think the NFL is going to have an eye on Major League Baseball which would like to start in June," Palmer added. "If that does happen and they do play some games this summer I think that will give the league a guinea pig to take a look at.
"You have to remember the economical factor that goes along with not having fans in the stands. Obviously safety is the first priority with everyone, if you don't have fans watching these games every team is going to lose 'X' amount of dollars, some people think roughly $100m per team which would effect your salary cap moving forward."
The NFL recently announced that the five International Series games set to take place in 2020 will instead be played in the United States for safety reasons, with London having been due to host four and Mexico staging the other.
As a result of the new collective bargaining agreement, any plans to adjust the schedule must also account for an extended postseason period, with one additional team from each conference now able to reach the playoffs.
Palmer explained: "My guess would be there are multiple schedules in their mind, there are multiple schedules that start either later, have a shortened version, maybe 12 or 14 games, maybe there's one that starts a little bit later and then the Super Bowl is pushed back.
"Do you lose a bye week? Do you lose the bye week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl? I think there's a lot on the table that they're looking at every possible scenario.
"I think they're trying to do everything in their power to make sure we have a season of some sort in the NFL this year."
Standard procedure currently dictates that Super Bowl cities make their host stadium available on multiple dates in the event of a change in circumstances.
With that in mind, Tampa should have few issues in welcoming the NFL's showpiece event later than anticipated if it were to be pushed back by a delayed start to the season.
"Nothing is off the table right now," said Palmer. "Nobody predicted a pandemic was going to happen but for a variety of reasons you are supposed to have multiple dates your stadium can host Super Bowl week and Tampa has that.
"That is in place. It could be pushed back."
While a behind-closed-doors start has been floated, Palmer believes the majority of teams would favour waiting until fans are able to attend.
That likely applies to the Las Vegas Raiders as they seek to fill their new stadium after moving out of Oakland at the end of 2019.
Palmer continued: "I look at the argument of having fans to no fans, I think you would ask all of the presidents of these teams 'would you rather start on time with no fans or would you rather push this back and for all 16 games have fans?'.
"I think almost everybody would say 'yeah let's push the season back' and operate a little bit later into the year to make sure it's safer, fans can be there and the money aspect of it as well."
This week's schedule release could prove a pointer to the NFL's thinking over the matter, particularly when it comes to the divisional matchups that Palmer believes should be prioritised.
"I would say if you had to lose games it's the inter-conference games," he said. "Then keep an eye on those marquee games as well, you want to see Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, the greater chance of that happening when it's scheduled is if that game is put later in the season as opposed to earlier."