NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said Thursday the league "will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season as scheduled." The statement was in response to comments from Dr. Anthony Fauci that football would need to enact a "bubble" format to be able to play this fall amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and high-profile member of the White House coronavirus task force, told CNN on Thursday it is difficult to see football played this fall without a bubble environment.
"Unless players are essentially in a bubble -- insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day -- it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall," Fauci said. "If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year."
The NBA, WNBA and MLS currently plan to resume play in Orlando later this summer in a bubble format.
"Dr. Fauci has identified the important health and safety issues we and the NFL Players Association, together with our joint medical advisors, are addressing to mitigate the health risk to players, coaches and other essential personnel," Sills said in a statement to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. "We are developing a comprehensive and rapid-result testing program and rigorous protocols that call for a shared responsibility from everyone inside our football ecosystem. This is based on the collective guidance of public health officials, including the White House task force, the CDC, infectious disease experts, and other sports leagues.
"Make no mistake, this is no easy task. We will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season as scheduled with increased protocols and safety measures for all players, personnel and attendees. We will be flexible and adaptable in this environment to adjust to the virus as needed."
Sills said Wednesday that enacting a bubble for the NFL was not "practical", and that protocols are still being developed. Sills added it's very likely the testing strategy for COVID-19 will look different from start to end of season as the science evolves.
Later Thursday, NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer released the following statement in response to Fauci's comments:
"Dr. Anthony Fauci's words carry important weight as he has served our country with expert guidance and moral clarity through many crises.
"As we have communicated to our players throughout the spring, we know that there are significant challenges to the operation of football during a global pandemic. So far, we have been guided and made decisions based on the best available science and current state of infections and hospitalizations. Our joint task force is comprised of experts in multiple areas who are working everyday with health and safety in mind.
"In addition to stringent protocols and workplace safety, we continue to reinforce the importance of widely available testing. It is not just a key to restarting football, but also a matter of public health. While the information we currently have indicates it will not be an issue in the near future, we all agree that ethically, we cannot as a non-essential business, take resources away from our fellow Americans.
"We will continue to update you as we move forward through the summer."