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The NFL returns this week. Here’s how many games it might play

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league could play fewer than 16 games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) pumps his fist as quarterback Reid Sinnett (7) throws a pass during an NFL football training camp practice Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Tampa, Fla.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) pumps his fist as quarterback Reid Sinnett (7) throws a pass during an NFL football training camp practice Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Tampa, Fla.
Chris O’Meara, Associated Press

The NFL returns for its next season on Thursday — but the season might not last 16 games if the novel coronavirus makes its way into the league.

What’s going on?

Goodell said medical decisions could decide whether or not changes to the schedule would need to be made to keep players and staff safe, NBC Sports reports.

“We’re prepared if we have to do that. We’ve obviously gone through work on that basis with teams. There will be potential competitive inequities that will be required this season because of the virus and because of the circumstances that we wouldn’t do in other years. That’s going to be a reality of 2020. If we feel like we have an outbreak, that’s going to be driven by medical decisions — not competitive decisions.”

Goodell said he is confident the season will be completed. But the league is prepared to play less than 16 games.

“I am. But I will tell you this: We’re never going to get comfortable. If confident means we’re comfortable, then that’s not where we are. ... We all have to do our part here to be successful in completing our season. I think we have a plan that will get us there.”

What NFL games will look like:

The NFL will follow the MLB’s approach with mostly closed games and safety protocols to prevent an outbreak, Fox News reports.

Some teams will have fans, per KSAT. Though the teams will have reduced capacity.

  • Cincinnati — 6,000 fans.
  • Cleveland — 6,000 fans.
  • Jacksonville — 25% capacity (about 17,000 fans).
  • Kansas City — 22% capacity (about 16,000 fans).
  • Miami — 20% capacity (about 13,000 fans).