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Roger Goodell warns it's no time for NFL to be complacent about COVID-19

Roger Goodell, shown at Super Bowl LIV on

Roger Goodell, shown at Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2 in Miami Gardens, Fla., said of the league's fight with the pandemic: "The protocols are working, but there's a lot of uncertainty." Credit: Getty Images / Maddie Meyer

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expressed cautious optimism about the league’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to believe the league can stage a full 2020 season. But he cautioned against complacency as the league nears the Sept. 10 start of the regular season.

“The big thing for us is not to get comfortable,” Goodell said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. “The protocols are working, but there’s a lot of uncertainty.”

After no players tested positive for the coronavirus during the Aug. 12-20 testing period, four players from different teams tested positive from Aug. 21-29. Six staff members were positive out of a total of 58,621 tests administered.

“We’re looking to start and complete the season on time,” Goodell said. “We have to put ourselves in the best possible position to complete the season. We will remain vigilant and adapt to circumstances as needed.”

Goodell said that though many teams — including the Jets and Giants — won’t have fans in the stands during games, that could change as the season progresses. But he wants to make sure that the league continues to adhere to the strict protocols that have so far been successful since players reported for training camp in late July.

“We’re not patting ourselves on the back yet,” he said. “It will not be easy, and it will be different. But we are prepared.”

Goodell said he doesn’t think teams allowing fans in the stands will have a competitive advantage over those who don’t. And Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, said teams that don’t have fans will be permitted to pipe in crowd noise during games. Final details on how loud the noise can be will be set in the coming days and in consultation with the league’s competition committee.

Goodell also stressed that social justice initiatives would continue and expressed his best wishes to Jacob Blake, who was seriously injured after being shot in the back during an arrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last month.

“The NFL stands with the Black community confronting systemic racism,” Goodell said. “We will not relent on our work.”

Goodell said the phrases “End racism” and “It takes all of us” will be stenciled into end zones in stadiums this season.

Vincent said players “all have the choice” not to play as a protest to draw attention to social justice issues, but in his “personal discussions with the players, and frankly with club ownership, it’s really time for us to dig into” issues of police reform and accountability.

New York Sports