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Falcons owner believes NFL games will occur in fall

Like most of us during this unprecedented time, Arthur Blank is also having a hard time recalling what day of the week it is.

The Falcons owner admitted he's relied more on his calendar in the last month as most everyone has been forced to stay at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but he provided a positive outlook during an interview on NFL Total Access that will air tonight at 7 ET on NFL Network. Blank said he believes there will be football in the fall.

"I think that we will. That's my personal view," Blank, who has pledged more than $5 million to COVID-19 relief, told NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano. "I'm not a physician, I'm not a scientist and what have you, but I read and follow everything else. I know that it's important, I think regardless of the sport -- the sport's important for lots of people for lots of reasons, not just the economics of it but to bring people together in a sense of community, sense of togetherness, et cetera, and a sense of purpose that they can join in together with. So I think there will be football. Whether or not all the games will be played with fans in the stands, I'm not sure. I know the league would certainly prefer to do that, so will virtually every other sport throughout the world. Whether or not that will be possible and provide a safe environment for our fans and our players and coaches and staff, et cetera, is still a question mark."

The NFL meanwhile is preparing for all possibilities, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell explained on The Rich Eisen Show earlier on Friday.

"One of the things we always do is we consider public safety in everything we do," Goodell told Eisen. "It's important for our fans, our participants, our partners to all be safe, so we are obviously going to have that in our forefront as we are making all our plans. And none of us know what the conditions will be a week from now, much less three months from now or six months from now. So we will be prepared for all alternatives. That's what we do. And we will make sure that we are ready to adjust while working with all the authorities. You mentioned the President has got all of the sports together.

"I think people want to see sports back, we want to do it safely. And we want to do it safely for everybody. And so we are all working together to make sure we find ways to do that, supporting one another but making sure that we do our part to get the economy going and get people back in a place where we have some sense of normalcy."

Fans clamoring for sporting action of any kind right now would likely shudder at the thought of a football-less fall, so Blank's response is very encouraging. Those same fans might have to accept a game played without them in the stands, though, as we all navigate an uncharted course.

"You know, you can debate what has to happen first," Blank said. "There certainly has to be a lot more testing, in my view, than where we are today in terms of capability. The concern the fans have about their own safety, we have to be able to relieve that, and to create a safe environment for them. I think there's ways to do that. We're not at that point now but I think that's where we're headed. Whether we'll get there for the first game of the year, I don't know, but I think the league would like to do that, certainly."

Blank made an excellent point near the end of his in-depth response to the broad question of will we have football? It's clear the incredibly successful businessman has thought long and hard about the situation and continues to mix his opinions with the latest information available.

"I think in the case of the NFL, so much of the product is absorbed by television, by media in different forms and formats, that even if we had to play some games without fans in the stands -- it's not preferable, it's not what our fans want, it's not what our players want, it's not what anybody wants -- but we could do it," Blank said. "I think so much focus is on the field itself and on the game itself that I think it would still be very acceptable and would be a great distraction for our fans."

The NFL's next big event takes place in less than a week, when the 2020 NFL Draft will take place virtually. From there, we'll continue to wait, see and adjust accordingly -- and always be sure to check our calendars.

Catch the full interview with Blank on NFL Total Access at 7 p.m. ET Friday on NFL Network.

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