Coronavirus: Falcons owner Blank optimistic NFL will still play full 16-game season

Omnisport

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank believes the NFL will be able to put on a full 16-game season despite complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

After a dramatic free agency went ahead despite the spread of COVID-19, the draft is also scheduled to take place in April, although public activities around it have been cancelled and teams are likely to conduct their business from remote locations.

Amid speculation over whether the regular season, due to start in September, will be affected, Blank hopes disruptions are mainly limited to offseason activities and training camps.

"If I had to speculate now, and I use the word speculate because that's really all it is, I would say yes," Blank said to NBC Sports' Peter King when asked about whether a 16-game season would be possible.

"Only because it's so far away from where we are today. I could easily see camps being shorter, players being tested on a daily basis, things of that nature. No fan attendance. Things like that. 

"We may have fewer preseason games, which probably wouldn't be the end of the world. But I think by September, my hope is by the time the regular season starts, that we'll be able to bring people together in some form or fashion in a safe manner and play."

At a time of global strife, Blank believes NFL action is needed more than ever, and he added: "I do think we need football now.

"It's hard to turn on any device you have today, almost any site, television, PCs, laptops, phones - without the first thing popping up being something on the virus. And that's appropriate. 

"However, I also think that people want a diversion. People want to be optimistic. People want to think about things that are really good times for themselves and their families and their loved ones and their communities. 

"To have that kind of hope and aspiration mixed into your daily life is important."

Despite his optimistic outlook, Blank acknowledges alterations are likely to be required.

"I think the NFL’s going to be fine," he said. "I don't mean it won't be changed. It is being changed now [with] how it will impact things like training camp, the OTAs.

"Training camps will probably affected in some way. And of course, your point about the stadiums, with 50,000 to 70,000 people, whatever it may be, it's just too early to tell.

"Of course we have to be able to provide a safe environment for fans. That's the most critical thing." 

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