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NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills slowed optimism Thursday that the 2020 season will take place on time, saying widespread and frequent coronavirus testing would have to be available.
"As long as we're still in a place where when a single individual tests positive for the virus that you have to quarantine every single person who was in contact with them in any shape, form, or fashion, then I don't think you can begin to think about reopening a team sport," Sills told Judy Battista of NFL.com. "Because we're going to have positive cases for a very long time."
Earlier in the week, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said the league is planning for a full season starting in September and in front of fans.
Sills added that the combination of frequent tests and quick results are not currently available on a large scale, though he's hopeful that will eventually change.
The NFL has already conceded that organized team activities won't take place over the spring because of social distancing. Lengthy quarantines could also prevent players from showing up to training camp later in the summer in legitimate football shape.
"There's no way to recreate a four-month offseason program in the span of (a) week or two," Sills said. "When you think about resuming something like football, everyone understands there needs to be some time to acclimatize to activity and train back to the level of physical fitness just to be able to think about more football-specific work. That's part of the timeline you have to plan for. The longer we're away from all football activity, we'll have to adjust that timeline of preparation as well."
The COVID-19 crisis has forced every other major sports league in North America to put its season on hold.
The NFL plans to release its regular-season schedule by May 9.