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With COVID-19 and the Omicron variant continuing to affect every part of life in America and beyond, the NFL is still struggling through, too. Players and coaches alike have entered and been taken out of changing protocols, missing practices and games, and a few contests last month were even rescheduled after a handful of teams were hit especially hard.
But the league has also looked into a Texas-sized backup plan in case COVID restrictions infringe on the biggest unofficial American holiday of them all: Super Bowl Sunday.
Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA reports that the NFL has had an exchange with the Dallas Cowboys regarding AT&T Stadium as a replacement host site for Super Bowl LVI if needed. Mike Leslie of the station cites a source in the team’s front office in the report.
The championship game is currently slated to be played Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium outside Los Angeles. There is nothing currently on the official schedule for that date at the Cowboys’ home venue in Arlington, which hosted Super Bowl XLV in early 2011.
According to the team source, Leslie writes, “the source did inquire about a date if [the] stadium is available. But that’s all I’ve ever heard. They could be just covering all options just in case.”
The league does, in fact, put together contingency plans for the Super Bowl every year, as per NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy (no relation to the Cowboys head coach). A general inquiry about the availability of AT&T Stadium, one of the nation’s largest in terms of capacity, would not be all that unusual as a matter of course.
Officials with the City of Arlington reportedly reached out to the NFL last month as COVID cases spiked, offering AT&T as an option if necessary.
But McCarthy says the plan remains to play the game as scheduled in Los Angeles.
“As part of our standard contingency planning process that we conduct for all regular and postseason games,” he is quoted as saying, “we have contacted several clubs to inquire about stadium availability in the event we cannot play the Super Bowl as scheduled due to weather-related issues or unforeseen circumstances.”
A dramatic rise in COVID cases would certainly qualify as one of those circumstances. Numbers are up all over the country, including California. Over 70,000 fans attended Week 17’s Chargers home game at SoFi, but as Leslie writes, “there are concerns that greater restrictions may be elevated in coming weeks and, coincidentally, just in advance of the Super Bowl.”
AT&T Stadium has stepped in before in an emergency capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year’s Rose Bowl was moved from Pasadena to Arlington due to attendance restrictions under California law.
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