NEW YORK — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has sent a letter to fans outlining the league’s plans to play during the coronavirus pandemic.
As veterans begin reporting to training camps this week, Goodell noted Monday how COVID-19 has “turned the world upside down.”
“COVID-19 will continue to present a major challenge to nearly every area of American life. Football is no exception,” Goodell wrote.
“Every step of the way, our focus has been on the safety of players, coaches, personnel, fans and our communities. Our planning has followed the lead of medical experts and public health officials, including the CDC, the White House Task Force, governors and state health officials. As we have developed our 2020 playbook for the return of football, safety continues to be our first priority; that commitment will remain paramount as players return to the field.”
The league and the players’ union reached agreement on a plan last Friday, after all preseason games were canceled. Team facilities were shut down by Goodell in late March and only began reopening on a cautious basis this summer.
“The NFL in 2020 will not look like other years,” Goodell added. “Players and coaches will be tested for the virus regularly, including every day for a while. Preseason games have been canceled. Everyone in the team environment must follow rigorous health and safety protocols to keep themselves and each other safe. When there is a positive test, strict regulations will be enforced to isolate and care for that individual and to contain the virus before it spreads.
“Even the sideline will look different. And, state and local health guidelines will help determine whether fans will attend the games. These adjustments are necessary to reduce the risk for everyone involved.”
Goodell stressed the need for adaptability on all levels, citing how a virtual draft was held in April. All 32 teams held remote offseason training sessions, too.
The NFL has opted not to create a bubble environment, something the NHL, NBA, WNBA and MLS have done. With Major League Baseball experiencing difficulties on its first weekend of play with a plan similar to the NFL’s, there is added anxiety about what Goodell’s league has planned.
“This week training camps across the country are starting and before we know it, the NFL season will be here,” he wrote. “This is always the most optimistic time of year for our fans, and for all 32 teams. In a year that has been extraordinarily difficult for our country and the world, we hope the energy of this moment will provide some much-needed optimism.”
Will there be fans at NFL games in 2020? Where all 32 teams stand for the regular season
With training camps open, NFL fans across the country are wondering whether they will be able to attend games once the 2020 season starts.
The answer is it depends on where and when. Guidelines vary from state to state regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Some teams have announced they will proceed with limited capacities, while others have said they will progress with no fans.
For many, it’s still wait and see. We asked each of our reporters to check with team officials to see where things currently stand. Here is what they were told:
Stadium: Orchard Park Stadium
What we know: New York State issued a guideline last month prohibiting fans not only from attending live sporting events but also from tailgating around the stadium. The Bills have given season-ticket holders the option to suspend their commitment until the 2021 season but are ready to offer priority seating to season-ticket holders who maintain their commitment, in the event limited seating is allowed. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Stadium: Hard Rock Stadium
What we know: The Dolphins haven’t officially decided whether they will have fans in the stadium and at what capacity. That info will come in the weeks ahead in consultation with health experts and government officials. In early May, Dolphins CEO and vice chairman Tom Garfinkel released a mock-up for Hard Rock Stadium to hold approximately 15,000 fans with social distancing, masks, touchless entry and cashless payment methods. The Dolphins say when a capacity is determined, season-ticket members will have first priority to purchase tickets based on their tenure. The team is also giving all season-ticket members the option to roll their 2020 payments into the 2021 season and retain all of their tenure, seats and associated benefits. They also strongly encouraged any season-ticket members who may be considered at risk based on CDC guidelines to exercise the 2021 option and stay at home in 2020. — Cameron Wolfe
Stadium: Gillette Stadium
What we know: The Patriots previously announced that Gillette Stadium will be limited to about 20% capacity this season, pending state and local approval. Those with tickets will be asked to maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet from other parties. Tickets will be arranged in blocks of 10 seats or less, and the first eight rows of stadium seats will not be used. — Mike Reiss
Stadium: MetLife Stadium
What we know: No fans are permitted to watch the Jets at MetLife Stadium, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced recently in conjunction with the Jets and Giants. They said the order is in place “until further notice,” leaving some wiggle room. — Rich Cimini
Stadium: M&T Bank Stadium
What we know: If fans are permitted to attend under state and local government rules/regulations, the Ravens announced that a significantly reduced seating capacity at M&T Bank Stadium would be necessary. Based on the social distancing guidelines and fan safety protocols developed by health experts, governmental officials and the NFL, it is expected that the stadium capacity – if fans are allowed – would be fewer than 14,000. “To offer a proper level of safety for fans who want to attend games, a reduction in capacity is necessary,” Ravens president Dick Cass said. “We are disappointed that this will be a disruption for many ticket buyers, but we have an obligation to our fans and our community to keep M&T Bank Stadium as safe as possible.” — Jamison Hensley
Stadium: Paul Brown Stadium
What we know: In July, the Bengals told season-ticket holders that Paul Brown Stadium will have “greatly reduced” seating if the team is allowed to have fans this season. In that scenario, those with season tickets will be reseated to comply with physical distancing. Face coverings will be required and tailgating prohibited. Fans can choose to opt out of attending 2020 games and keep their season tickets for 2021. — Ben Baby
Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium
What we know: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recently said it’s “too early” to determine what will be safe regarding fans in the Buckeye State. Ohio State announced it will cap fan capacity at 20,000 at Ohio Stadium. The Browns, however, continue to call the situation fluid. — Jake Trotter
Stadium: Heinz Field
What we know: The Steelers are planning to have a limited number of fans at Heinz Field, but that reduced capacity hasn’t been determined yet. Fans who purchased single-game tickets to games this season through Ticketmaster and other third-party websites were recently informed their transactions had been canceled and refunded, leaving season-ticket holders with the best chance of seeing a game in-person at Heinz Field this year. — Brooke Pryor
Stadium: NRG Stadium
What we know: The Texans have not announced a plan for fan attendance, but according to their team website, if there are fans at games, NRG Stadium’s capacity will be reduced to approximately 14,000 seats and the seats in the first eight rows of the lower level will not be sold. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest order allows for 50% capacity at stadiums in the state. — Sarah Barshop
Stadium: Lucas Oil Stadium
What we know: The Colts have announced that they will have no more than about 25% capacity during games at Lucas Oil Stadium. They have two packages — Plan A and Plan B — for fans to choose from. Plan A features home games against Minnesota, Baltimore, Houston and Tennessee. Plan B will include home games against the New York Jets, Cincinnati, Green Bay and Jacksonville. — Mike Wells
Stadium: TIAA Bank Field
What we know: The Jaguars told season-ticket holders they will be able to seat approximately 25% of TIAA Bank Field’s capacity at each home game in 2020. The stadium holds 67,164, so the capacity will be 16,791. The team said any possible increase in capacity will depend on developments regarding the coronavirus as well as any local, state or federal instructions. — Mike DiRocco
Stadium: Nissan Stadium
What we know: The Titans plan to have fans at Nissan Stadium in a limited capacity. They are working with state and local government officials to determine the number. Reducing the capacity will allow seats to be more spread out to encourage social distancing, and the Titans are also looking into increased sanitization methods. Season-ticket holders were given the option to opt out of the 2020 season with a refund and not lose their seat license. The priority is to ensure that as many season-ticket holders as possible can attend games. Fans who purchased single-game tickets had their orders canceled and will be refunded. — Turron Davenport
Stadium: Empower Field at Mile High
What we know: Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis said this past week that no decision had been made if the Broncos would have a limited number of fans at their home games or no fans, but that the decision would be made in conjunction with both local and state officials. Ellis said: “They’re proceeding with caution and so are we. We want to do the right thing. I don’t have a set number of fans for you nor do I know when fans will be in the stands. We’re going to work through that. We’re going to do that in partnership with the governor and the mayor, the City of Denver.” Ellis added the team would continue to be in contact with city and state governments, and how neighboring states are contending with the virus could impact the decision. — Jeff Legwold
Stadium: Arrowhead Stadium
What we know: The Chiefs are planning for home games with reduced capacity, though details of their plan have not been released. The Chiefs said they would consult with the NFL, local government officials and public health experts to determine a suitable number of tickets to sell for each home game. Arrowhead is a spacious stadium with three levels, making social distancing with a reduced capacity possible, at least in the seating area. Whatever tickets the Chiefs issue will be on a single-game basis. — Adam Teicher
Stadium: Allegiant Stadium
What we know: Raiders owner Mark Davis followed through on an earlier feeling by emailing Raiders season-ticket holders on Monday to tell them that fans will not be allowed at home games this season. He also said earlier that if no fans could attend home games, neither would he. It is a unique situation for the Raiders, who have moved into a sparkling new 65,000-seat, $1.9 billion palace off the Las Vegas Strip. But because the NFL wants the first eight rows of seats from the field blocked off to create more social distancing from players on the sideline (and to create advertising revenue via tarps covering said seats), Davis is nonplussed. “The optics are terrible; advertising on top of seats belonging to people you’re telling they can’t come to the game,” said Davis, who added that his idea of installing a Plexiglas barrier between the first row of seats and the field rather than blocking off seats was never discussed. “I’d rather have everybody pissed at me than just one person. I’ve got to make it up to them, and I will. This is all about safety and equity.” — Paul Gutierrez
Stadium: SoFi Stadium
What we know: The Chargers have not officially announced capacity restrictions, but they expect theirs to be similar if not the same as the Rams’, as the teams share SoFi Stadium. Capacity limitations have not been finalized, but expect a cap of 15,000 fans or the possibility that the stadium will be empty in its debut season. — Lindsey Thiry
Stadium: AT&T Stadium
What we know: The Cowboys plan to have fans in the stands in 2020, but the exact total has not been made public. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said stadiums can have up to 50% capacity, which would peg the attendance at 40,000; however, in following CDC guidelines, the figure would be much less than that. The Cowboys will not have their field suites in use and the NFL is putting tarps over the first eight rows of the stadium, which would eat up some significant seating. The Cowboys have canceled all season tickets and are giving their holders the option to buy single-game seats while also receiving a refund or the ability to push the money into next year’s season tickets. — Todd Archer
Stadium: MetLife Stadium
What we know: No fans are allowed at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey “until further notice.” This according to a recent executive order from Gov. Phil Murphy which caps outdoor gatherings at 500 people. It makes it unlikely that the Giants will have fans at games until (optimistically) later in the season. The same applies to the Jets. — Jordan Raanan
Stadium: Lincoln Financial Field
What we know: Currently, Philadelphia prohibits outdoor events involving more than 50 people, meaning no fans in the stands for now. The mayor’s office called it a “fluid situation,” though, leaving open the possibility that fans could be allowed to attend at some point this season should circumstances change for the better. — Tim McManus
Stadium: FedEx Field
What we know: Washington has a tentative plan for fans to attend, sending out a letter to season-ticket holders that they will use mobile ticketing only and that fans must wear masks if they attend. They’ve given fans the opportunity to get a refund for season tickets — or apply them to 2021. But there has not yet been any decision on how many fans would be able to attend. It likely would end up to be 25,000 at most, but all plans at this point are tentative. In the letter, the team told season-ticket holders that “we couldn’t be more excited to welcome fans back to FedEx Field as we head into this new era of Washington football.” The team said it would release further details in coming weeks. — John Keim
Stadium: Soldier Field
What we know: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has not signed off yet on legislation that would permit fans to attend Bears home games at Soldier Field. In the event the Bears do receive permission to host a limited number of fans, the team informed season-ticket holders that the club will not offer season or multigame ticket packages this year. Season-ticket holders, starting with PSL holders, will have the first opportunity to purchase single-game tickets. — Jeff Dickerson
Rob Ninkovich and Damien Woody weigh in on the concept of a fanless NFL season.
Stadium: Ford Field
What we know: The Lions have said they are waiting on regulations and guidance from the state of Michigan before making any official announcements. As of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest executive order on July 29, no live audiences are permitted for sporting events in Wayne County, where the Lions play. But things can change between now and September. — Michael Rothstein
Stadium: Lambeau Field
What we know: The Packers still haven’t decided whether they will allow fans, but if they do it will be no more than 12,000 in the 80,000-plus capacity Lambeau Field. Packers president Mark Murphy said: “We followed the CDC guidelines and determined that we would only have 10,000 to 12,000 people in the stands if we decide to allow fans to attend.” The Packers won’t have fans at their training camp or at the annual family night, which in the past has drawn more than 60,000 people per year to the evening practice at Lambeau. — Rob Demovsky
Stadium: U.S. Bank Stadium
What we know: The Vikings have not announced a specific attendance figure for home games but acknowledged that games will be played at “a significantly reduced capacity and include a different in-stadium experience.” If games are indeed played in U.S. Bank Stadium at a limited capacity, the priority will be given to stadium builders license owners. Season-ticket holders have the chance to opt out of their season tickets by requesting a full refund for the 2020 season or have their accounts credited towards a 2021 season-ticket package. There is also the option for fans to keep their tickets and if games are canceled or reduced capacity is implemented: “A credit for the portion of your paid 2020 season tickets applicable to the missed game(s) will automatically be applied to your account, unless you request a full refund for the missed 2020 game(s).” — Courtney Cronin
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
What we know: The Falcons are preparing for a limited capacity of 10,000-20,000 inside 71,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It will cater to 55,000 PSL and suite owners through a drawing based on preference for the first four home games, with those fans receiving one game each, possibly two. The system will be evaluated to determined how to proceed for the last four home games. Falcons officials understand nothing is final, as higher authorities could step in and say no fans are allowed to attend. — Vaughn McClure
Stadium: Bank of America Stadium
What we know: The team has made no official statement, but owner David Tepper has said publicly that he believes fans should be in the stands this season. There have been discussions of about 20,000 fans in the 75,000 seat stadium. PSL owners already have been sent a letter saying they will have the option to purchase tickets, but they can opt out without losing their PSL. — David Newton
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
What we know: The Saints have not yet finalized a plan as they continue to work with city and state officials, medical experts and the CDC to find the safest way to have a reduced number of fans in the Superdome. They are targeting the middle of this month to submit a plan to the governor and New Orleans mayor for approval, though that plan remains a work in progress. — Mike Triplett
Stadium: Raymond James Stadium
What we know: The Bucs are still determining at what capacity they can safely operate at in 2020, but the team is rolling over all season-ticket holders’ payments for 2021 or they may use that credit to purchase single-game tickets for 2020. Fans who wish to roll over their credit will also be given priority access to single-game 2020 tickets based on tenure. Fans will also have the option for a full refund for 2020 but will still receive an offer for a renewal in 2021 in the same location. The deadline to apply for a refund is Aug. 9. Unused parking funds can be rolled over for 2021 or fans can request a refund. — Jenna Laine
Stadium: State Farm Stadium
What we know: In an email telling season-ticket holders that their ticket plans will be canceled for the 2020 season, the Cardinals said “it is not clear at this point how many spectators — if any — will be permitted to attend Cardinals home games in 2020.” Until that is decided, which may not be until the eleventh hour because of Arizona’s high rates, the Cardinals have yet to publicly announce any plans. — Josh Weinfuss
Stadium: SoFi Stadium
What we know: The Rams announced that the capacity at SoFi Stadium will be capped at 15,000 fans this season, and the possibility remains that no fans will be allowed to attend games in 2020. — Lindsey Thiry
Stadium: Levi’s Stadium
What we know: Given the state of things in California, it’s hard to imagine the 49ers having fans at games this year even in a limited capacity, though no official decision has been made yet on that front. For now, the Niners have said that they “may not be able to host fans in a full or limited capacity this season.” With that in mind, the team has already said all single-game ticket sales for the season will be refunded and season-ticket holders can decline tickets for the season with the ability to renew next year. If fans are permitted, they will be required to wear masks and tickets will be made available on a game-by-game basis, with season-ticket holders having first priority. — Nick Wagoner
Stadium: CenturyLink Field
What we know: The Seahawks have not announced a range of fans they plan on allowing at each home game, but all signs point to a significantly reduced capacity being the best-case scenario. King County is paused in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase reopening plan. Large sporting events are not allowed until the final phase, meaning things would have to get significantly better in a hurry for CenturyLink Field to have any fans in the stands by the time the Seahawks play their home opener against New England in Week 2. The team has allowed season-ticket holders the option of opting out of the 2020 season. — Brady Henderson
The XFL, The Rock, Dany Garcia and $15 million
Dany Garcia was captivated the moment the XFL 2.0 kicked off in February. She was surprised by the level of play, appreciative of the attempts to speed up the pace and intrigued by the potential for expanding storylines and providing new access to players and coaches. So when the league entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April, she immediately picked up the phone and called her ex-husband and longtime business partner: actor Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock.
“I told DJ, ‘We have something really important to do,'” Garcia recalled by phone Monday. “‘We want to do this.’ It was so natural. There was a moment in Dwayne’s life when football was going to be his [career]. I’m a professional athlete myself. We do sports. We do entertainment. If you look at our résumés, everything points to this moment and opportunity for us, to work with these athletes and to build this brand.”
Garcia and Johnson teamed with Gerry Cardinale, founder and managing partner of RedBird Capital Partners, to submit a bid worth $15 million, plus additional considerations, for the league. According to court documents, they submitted the only qualified bid. Assuming a bankruptcy judge approves it during a Thursday hearing, Garcia will take over as the first woman to own an equal or majority ownership stake in a major professional sports league in the United States.
The agreement ensures a future for the brand but leaves plenty of questions regarding the timing and scale of football it will produce. After a day of reporting, let’s run through what we do and don’t know about XFL 3.0.
Who is going to run the league?
Garcia said she will hold “some kind of executive position with the organization.” But she also noted a long list of other professional commitments, which include television and movie production. She is also a professional bodybuilder. Johnson will soon return to filming movies, while Cardinale and RedBird supervise more than $4 billion in assets. Not a lot of free time to go around there.
Garcia said she expected all three to be “heavily involved” but also provided a strong endorsement for the executive team that former owner Vince McMahon built. That group was led by president and chief operating officer Jeffrey Pollack, who was among a handful of XFL employees who were not laid off during bankruptcy. Former commissioner Oliver Luck, who is suing McMahon for wrongful termination, is unlikely to return.
It’s worth noting, however, that McMahon’s decision to hire Luck — a former NFL quarterback and longtime sports administrator — was the first signal that he wanted to produce serious football. The identity of the league’s day-to-day leader, whether it is Pollack or a new hire, will be a powerful message about the new owners’ intent.
Why haven’t we heard from Johnson?
We have, in a way. In a rousing statement, he said he got involved because of “my passion for the game and my desire to always take care of the fans.” He added: “With pride and gratitude for all that I’ve built with my own two hands, I plan to apply these callouses to the XFL, and look forward to creating something special for the players, fans, and everyone involved for the love of football.”
Johnson played college football at the University of Miami before joining the WWE and later moving into acting. But Garcia spoke Monday for the ownership group, emphasizing a “milestone that will be of importance to so many people.”
How will the league benefit from having a woman in ownership?
Garcia said that diversity and inclusion will be “a relevant and accountable conversation” throughout the league. In truth, she noted, the XFL was on its way to building a strong record in this space. Two of its eight team presidents were women, and each officiating crew included at least one woman. Three of its eight head coaches were Black.
“Our expectation is that we will just continue that and continue that with intent,” Garcia said. “We will have the best people in the best positions, and it will be diverse and inclusive and that’s how it should be.”
Will the league have the same core principles on the field?
Garcia suggested that it would.
McMahon introduced the XFL 2.0 as an attempt to “re-imagine” football, and it introduced nearly two dozen tweaks to the conventional game. Most notable was a new kickoff alignment that all but guaranteed returns, along with three options for point after touchdown attempts. The league also guaranteed broadcasters an enhanced level of access to players and coaches during games, while also allowing viewers to listen to officiating deliberations in real time. In addition, it embraced gambling on its broadcasts and its creative social media platforms.
“I think there was a lot to build on,” Garcia said, “and not so much a matter of changing it. Any format change would be because of COVID-19. That would be the reason. The roots and the bones of what were there were excellent. I like the speed of play. I loved the access. I think there is probably some elegance that can be added so that maybe it’s not as disruptive. But being in the box when they’re reviewing the calls, and reviewing the penalties? Those were moments when you really felt that you were with and knew the players. So that was amazing to bond with that football experience. There was a lot of great, great work. It’s the opportunity to say, ‘OK, that was fantastic. How do we make it 10 times better?’
“We’ve grown a tremendous amount of companies from the ground up. This is a space where we’re very, very comfortable. We can really put our touch on it.”
Can the league really pull off a season in 2021?
It will be difficult. Garcia said there are active conversations about what a 2021 season would look like, and she noted the success of bubble concepts in the NBA and WNBA, among other leagues. The XFL had built a bubble plan for its eight teams, to be used either in the pandemic or as a cost-cutting measure, and it is part of the intellectual property that would transfer to new owners. In that scenario, the teams would practice and play in a single city, probably without fans.
“The audience is getting used to watching these games without fans,” Garcia said, “and that’s super, super, super important, too.”
There are some potential positives for playing spring football, most notably a potential influx of talent if college players opt out of the 2020 season or it is canceled altogether. Those players could instead participate in the XFL and then enter the 2021 NFL draft. (Former West Virginia safety Kenny Robinson followed that route last spring, playing for the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks and then heading to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers as a fifth-round draft choice.)
The Panthers continue to add players to their defense after drafting XFL standout Kenny Robinson Jr.
But the pandemic could create a “crowded marketplace” this spring, said David Carter, a leading sports industry analyst, principal of The Sports Business Group and an associate professor of sports business at USC. And the challenge of scaling up the league after it was stripped to the studs is considerable. Nearly 1,000 former employees, including players, remain creditors in bankruptcy, as do hundreds of vendors who provided the league services, and they are unlikely to receive more than a portion of money they are owed.
Don’t they want jobs, though?
Of course. One former staffer estimated Monday that less than 10% of the league’s workforce has found long-term employment. But many were also angered by a quote attributed to Pollack in a news release that heralded a “Hollywood ending to our sale process.” Suffice it to say, Monday wasn’t a “Hollywood ending” for everyone.
What should be made of the $15 million purchase price?
Many former employees were surprised at how low it was. The sale was brokered by Houlihan Lokey, a well-known firm that said it had received more than two dozen inquiries serious enough to merit non-disclosure agreements to accommodate a review of assets.
But the only qualified bid came from Garcia, Johnson and Cardinale, and it was lower than the gross revenues (nearly $20 million) that the XFL claimed for its five-game season. In court filings, McMahon said he had invested $200 million in startup costs.
The purchase also makes the new owners responsible for payment of cure amounts up to $8.5 million. Ultimately, though, the price represented what turned out to be minimal interest in buying the brand. PJT Partners served as financial adviser for Garcia and Johnson in the deal.
Are we sure that McMahon didn’t just cut a deal with his friends?
McMahon admitted in a court deposition that he had given thought to retaining ownership through the bankruptcy process but decided against it when the unsecured creditors committee accused him of rigging the sale.
Johnson, of course, was a longtime employee of McMahon at WWE. Garcia was married to Johnson during part of that time and has managed his business career throughout. She said Monday that she was involved in Johnson’s WWE contract negotiations and storylines and knew McMahon and his wife, Linda, “very well” during that time.
It’s only human nature to ask whether, in a world of 7.8 billion people, it’s entirely coincidental that two of the new XFL owners are longtime associates of the previous one. Many former XFL employees were among those asking that same question.
Meanwhile, as attorney Daniel Wallach noted, the unsecured creditors committee filed an objection to the sale based in part on sale terms that might not have maximized the value of the league. The committee, in fact, expressed concern about the connections between McMahon, Johnson and Garcia.
If your conspiracy theory is that McMahon is trying to run the league through longtime associates, the committee offered this ominous but vague footnote in its filing: “While the Committee has no evidence to support that the Proposed Buyer is affiliated with McMahon or the WWE (other than certain well-known affiliations between a member of the Proposed Buyer and McMahon/WWE), the Proposed Buyer’s insistence that the Sale include the acquisition of insider claims raises significant concerns and questions about the connections or intentions of the Proposed Buyer vis-à-vis McMahon and the WWE.”
These concerns presumably will be adjudicated during Thursday’s approval hearing.
How will the XFL 3.0 make money?
This remains the elusive question for spring football. There hasn’t been a successful alternative to the NFL in 50 years, largely because no one has figured out how to make it profitable.
Broadcast fees are the lifeblood of successful major sports leagues, but they take time to earn. The XFL’s 2.0 plan called for three seasons of investment and proof of concept before that point would come. Its 2020 television deals with Fox and Disney (ABC/ESPN) covered only production costs.
A 2021 bubble concept would eliminate all the costs associated with placing teams in multiple cities, as well as much of the local revenue. It also would reduce the number of players the league would need to sign for training camps, a substantial savings. But the XFL 3.0 likely will need to secure broadcast fees on some level to ensure long-term success.
Ron Rivera says he can envision Alex Smith becoming part of Washington’s quarterback competition
But Rivera also made it clear that he has been pleased with second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins‘ progress this offseason.
Smith is trying to recover from a broken fibula and tibia suffered in November 2018 that required 17 surgeries and nearly led to his right leg being amputated. Washington has not yet cleared him for football activity and placed him on the physically unable to perform list before camp. But Smith has been working on the side with trainers and performing the same drills as the other quarterbacks — Haskins, Kyle Allen and Steven Montez.
“He’s looked good, he really has,” Rivera said of Smith. “It’s been exciting to watch his progression. He’s looked very fluid. It’s a tribute to who he is, a tribute to his trainers and his doctors to get to where he is today.”
Before reporting to Ashburn, Va., Smith was cleared by his own doctors, one of whom is Washington’s head team physician, Robin West. But Rivera said Washington wanted to see how Smith handled himself on the field before clearing him. Smith worked on the field for four days last week, while the other quarterbacks and rookies were on the field. Rivera called it an “important step” that Smith reported no issues with his leg the day after each session.
After watching Smith, Rivera said he “can envision” him becoming part of the quarterback competition – with a caveat. There is still caution expressed internally about Smith and whether there’s a difference between looking good and showing he can still be a quality starting quarterback.
“The big thing is if he can do the things we need him to do, that he needs to do to help himself on the field,” Rivera said. “He’ll be part of the conversation most definitely. … We’ll see how he is this week.
“It’s a matter of: Can he do the movements he needs to do? Can he protect himself when on the field? He’s going to have to hand the ball off, drop back in the pocket and throw the ball, he’s going to have to escape. We have to make sure he can do those things and protect himself as he plays.”
Rivera said there’s no cutoff date in mind for when he would want to make a decision on Smith. Because he’s played 13 years and has run similar concepts before – and because he’s considered a smart quarterback — Rivera estimates Smith knows about 75 percent of their playbook.
Meanwhile, Rivera said Haskins isn’t far behind in his knowledge of the playbook; Allen knows it from having played in this offense the past two years. Haskins, the 15th pick in the 2019 draft, closed the season as the starter and, by all accounts, has had a strong offseason. He’s lost nearly 20 pounds from the time he was drafted, hoping to add quickness an ability to hurt teams more with his legs.
“He’s done a great job studying and preparing and getting himself ready,” Rivera said of Haskins. “He’s been great. He’s been on the field doing things asked of him. He’s done the extra stuff he and I talked about in the offseason. He’s done the things I think put him right there where he needs to be at this junction. He’s done the job that I think deserves recognition.”
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