A general view during a severe weather delay during the...

A general view during a severe weather delay during the first quarter between the Giants and Jets at MetLife Stadium on Aug. 8, 2019. Credit: Brad Penner

The NFL plans to return to action this year. Whether that will be with or without fans remains to be seen.

Regarding the possibility of playing games surrounded by nothing but empty seats, Joe Judge said on Tuesday: “I don’t think anyone wants to play in front of empty stadiums. The fans are really a huge part of this game. Playing in front of stadiums, that’s where a lot of the juice and energy comes from on a weekly basis.”

Judge, of course, has very little say in whether that happens or not. Those decisions will be made by local governments and the league itself (i.e. the owners).

“The league will make those decisions and the one thing the league is being very considerate of right now is everybody’s safety,” Judge said. “Players, fans, everybody.”

Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC Sports’ Peter King this week that playing without fans is one possible scenario.

“I think it’s feasible that negative-testing players could play to an empty stadium,” he said. “There will be virus out there and you will know your players are negative at the time they step onto the field . . . Also, if the virus is so low that even in the general community the risk is low, then I could see filling a third of the stadium or half the stadium so people could be six feet apart.”

That would certainly be a strange setting for a professional football game. It might also affect the actual geography of the sport. If there are not going to be any fans, it might not make financial sense for all teams to open up the cavernous buildings that normally house them. Games could theoretically be played at smaller venues such as soccer stadiums, nearby colleges, or even high school fields in some parts of the country.

But having no fans would be something players, who normally draw energy from the crowd whether it be cheers for the home team or hatred for the visitors, would have to get used to.

“We don’t have fans at practice, so we prepare them every day to play without people watching,” Judge said. “These guys have to go out and be prepared for whatever the situation is, but truly we want the fans there. It would be a different atmosphere. We prepare for whatever, but the fans are a huge part of this game and we definitely want them there.”

More Giants