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NFL Draft

Should NFL Consider Playing Games On Saturdays?

  • The Draft Network
  • July 25, 2020
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The football season as we’ve known it to be will look different in 2020. We still aren’t sure how, or if, the NFL, or college football, season will begin play as we continue to navigate the return of sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  

A number of college programs have already announced changes to their schedules with the Ivy League canceling all fall sports and a number of football games across all conferences being canceled as well, including non-conference games in the Big Ten and Pac-12. More decisions are expected in the coming weeks with the general consensus being any college sports this fall will be a bonus.

One solution for the NFL, which seems to be going full steam ahead with training camp scheduled to begin on time, would be moving games to Saturday in lieu of any, and possibly all, college games. The NFL has not had any formal discussions about moving any number of games to Saturdays, according to a report from ProFootballTalk. There could rightfully be concerns about player readiness and competitive balance by altering the schedule to both shorten the timeline in between games and allow an extra day of recovery for those playing Saturdays. 

Since revenue was such a contentious point of discussion for the NFL during negotiations this past week, any options for the league to recoup any lost revenue could be on the table.

This, from PFT’s report:  

“The league could recapture plenty of lost game-day stadium revenue by carving out games from the Sunday windows and featuring them on Saturdays. And if the networks aren’t able or willing to pay for the extra games given the financial realities of the pandemic, the league could sell the rights to a streaming provider — or possibly sell the games directly to consumers under its existing preseason/Game Pass model.”

There is truth to this, however, the schedule has already been altered with no preseason games. The NFL will try as long as it can to play a full season and with an assumption the season won’t begin on time, cramming play into Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays would seem to be more of a headache than delaying the start of the season by taking the front end of the schedule and playing at a later date.

In 2016, now San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman took us through the schedule of a normal week, with a game on Sunday, and then a schedule that featured a Thursday night game. It highlighted the disparity between the NFL prioritizing player safety and the time a player needs to fully recover from the onslaught they sustain any given Sunday during the season. Sherman’s sentiment, that the league uses player safety as a shield and it “is a bottom-line business,” is exacerbated by its actions regarding the start of play as the coronavirus continues to devastate the United States. 

Players and some coaches, including Los Angeles Rams’ Sean McVay, have continued to voice concern on exactly how the schedule will start on time. In a recent interview with NFL Network’s Dan Hellie, McVay called attention to the chatter regarding a delayed start.

“Something about it tells me maybe there’s a chance that things get moved back,” McVay said on The Helliepod Podcast. “And that’s what’s weird, because you want to make sure — hey, if we’re going, we’re ready to roll, we’re locked in.” 

Similar to the players’ sentiment during their #WeWantToPlay social campaign at the beginning of the week, McVay is “confident” there will be a season but remains “a little skeptical” right now as to how the season will play as scheduled.

There is a Sept. 10 start date and the NFL will continue to not make any decisions until it has to. The league would be wise to be more flexible than it has been in the past, as Cleveland Browns center and NFL Players Association president J.C. Tretter said earlier this month “football’s resistance to change is based on the belief that the best way to run things is the way we’ve always run things. That pervasive thought process will stop this season in its tracks.” 

The NFL has to be flexible with its schedule, but not at the continued expense of the players. Having games on Saturdays continues to prioritize the bottom line over player health and safety. 

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