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Following NFL schedule release, teams focus on preparing for coronavirus-related changes

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NEW ORLEANS - Following Thursday night's release of the 2020 NFL schedule, all 32 teams now know when and where they'll be playing. What still isn't known is how COVID-19 could impact the season.

Franchises are now working on contingency plans for if and when games are played. 

"We put together different scenarios," Miami Dolphins CEO, Tom Garfinkel said. "I think the goal is to create a 'socially distant' stadium, provide that as an option."

Garfinkel says the ultimate goal is the safety of fans, should they be able to attend games this season. His team has created a blueprint to do just that.

"What we've done is significantly reduced capacity," Garfinkel said. 

"We've got people in sets of four seats or two seats, that are six feet away from all the other seats. We've thought about everything from parking spaces, to ingress and egress of security, keeping the stadium cashless so it's basically touchless."

Garfinkel says an altered game day experience could mean no lines, instead, a concession pickup system. With seating, the Dolphins are looking at using every other row. He adds with the size of Hard Rock Stadium and others around the league, will allow teams to provide adequate space.

"We've got bathrooms and concourses for 65,000 people," Garfinkel said. "So if we had, say, 15,000 people, there's plenty of room to keep a safe distance from everybody, wear masks, and have everybody socially distanced."

While waiting on additional guidance from the NFL, the New Orleans Saints are also preparing for possible changes this season. After Thursday night's schedule release, ASM Global, the management company for the Mercedes Benz Superdome released the following statement:

"ASM Global remains in close communications with the Saints about the start of the 2020 season and will follow the NFL's guidelines when the start date is announced. Like other NFL facilities, we are working a number of different options from games without fans, to games played with limited capacities. We don't have any definitive guidance yet on what the re-occupancy requirements might look like, but we are already contemplating how we may be able to adapt and accommodate the fans, the teams, and those working the games to provide a safe environment for all." 

Ultimately, whether or not fans will be allowed at games remains up in the air. 

"There's a human need to physically be together and experience things together," Garfinkel said. "Through the isolation of the last two months, I think there is a need for that even more. It's certainly going to be different having 15,000 fans instead of 65,000 fans. I think if we can do it safely, and we have to be able to do it safely or we just won't do it."

What Garfinkel, the Dolphins, and many other teams are doing is creating possible scenarios for the season while waiting on several decisions to be made by the league. 

"I don't think anybody can predict what's going to happen here in the near future, come September or October," Garfinkel said. "Obviously, if it's not safe to do so, the government or the league will decide we can't play. We can only do this if it's safe for the players, the officials, the fans if they were able to attend."


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