NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is maintaining confidence that fans will be back in NFL stadiums this fall.
Given the spread of COVID-19's Delta variant, changing conditions can always change outlooks. But for now, Goodell told NFL Network's Judy Battista that confidence must be combined with a willingness to adapt.
"This year, we're comfortable that local regulations are going to allow us to have fans at all 32 stadiums. We'll still be smart. We're still going to be willing to adapt. We're still going to do everything to make sure our fans are safe when they're there," Goodell said in an interview that aired Saturday on Inside Training Camp Live. "But we expect full stadiums. You know, the fans want to come back. That's the No. 1 thing we hear. We're seeing that in our ticket sales. Fans just want to be a part (of) and have that collective experience. Doing that around an NFL game is fun."
Increased vaccination rates among players have Goodell encouraged that the 2021 NFL season will see "limited disruptions." The league has reached 89 percent of players having taken at least one shot, with 22 clubs reaching 90 percent and nine at over 95 percent, according to NFL Network’s Judy Battista. There remain clubs that aren't where they want to be -- including the Washington Football Team.
Still, Goodell is pleased with what he's seen overall.
"I think the increasing numbers are indicating with people getting more comfortable, understanding better that they are effective, that they are safe and that they are the best way to keep yourself and your family and everyone around you safe," Goodell said. "So I think that's why you're seeing the numbers increase. I think we'll continue to see that as we get further into camps, with camps opening. I think we're in a place where I think we can keep our personnel safe and have limited disruptions."
As for the variant, Goodell recognized that the league's approach can't necessarily be the same as it was a year ago. Protocols, as such, can be a moving target, and indeed were updated last week.
"We're all following science. We're following what's happening in the world around us, obviously with the variant out there. It's changing the way we look at it," Goodell added. "I think the key for us this year, just like last year, is going to be work together. Work together amongst our clubs, with our players, and really work to adapt our protocols as necessary. That's where we'll be. I think if we do that and we stay on top of that, I think we'll be effective and have very limited disruptions to the season.
Training camp is finally here! Be sure to check outNFL Network's extensive live coverage, including Inside Training Camp every day and highlighted by Training Camp: Back Together Saturday Fueled by Gatorade on July 31.