Roger Goodell: NFL not planning on single playoff bubble environment

Despite COVID-19 complications this week prompting three postponements of the Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game and the Denver Broncos playing without a quarterback, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday he doesn’t envision the league going into a bubble this postseason. 

The prudence of a playoff bubble has been debated for much of the year after the NBA completed its season and postseason in a bubble at Disney World. 

However, league officials have maintained that such a move isn’t practical for the NFL given the much larger amount of personnel involved.

Goodell said that the league remains aware that additional measures may need to be taken in order to complete the regular season and postseason uninterrupted. He said “all options are on the table” but declined to shed light on what contingency plans are being discussed to better ensure that teams don’t suffer COVID-19 outbreaks during the postseason.

Goodell, however, was clear in articulating the league's stance against the notion of a central playoff bubble. 

“We don’t see bubble as where we’re all in one location,” Goodell said on a conference call with reporters. “We feel strongly our protocols are working. We are willing to adjust and adapt those protocols and take additional steps but I don’t see us doing a bubble in way lot of media focuses on it.”

An NFL logo is shown on the goal post during the first half of an NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and Houston Texans, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Detroit. (Photo: Paul Sancya, AP)

NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills declined to rule out requiring teams to transition into their own local bubbles, but echoed Goodell’s earlier assessment said the league continues to evaluate the risks and benefits of every option.

The NFL opted to forge ahead with Wednesday's game between the Ravens and Steelers after more than 20 Ravens players were placed on the COVID-19 reserve list in the last week and a half with either positive tests or high-risk close contact designations. The league also decided not postpone the Broncos' contest against the New Orleans Saints after all four of Denver's quarterbacks were placed on the COVID-19 list. Third-stringer Jeff Driskel tested positive for COVID-19, and Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were ruled out due to exposure after violating the league's protocols on wearing masks.

But Goodell stressed that the owners in their meeting last month agreed “we will not reschedule games for that purpose, even if there are multiple cases in a position group."

The league will only postpone games, Goodell said, if unable to isolate and contain the spread of COVID-19 within a facility.

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