The NFL has not announced any formal plans to hold games in stadiums without fans, but it sounds like at least one team should begin preparing to go without crowd noise at any of its home games this season.
The state of Illinois released its guidelines for a phased reopening, and the final phase — labeled “Phase 5 – Illinois Restored” — says the economy will “fully reopen with safety precautions continuing” only after a vaccine or highly effective treatment becomes available. Phase 4 states that gatherings of only 50 people or fewer will be allowed until Phase 5 is implemented.
That could mean a lot for the Chicago Bears, among other sports teams in the state. Most health experts agree that a vaccine will not be widely available until sometime next year, which means it is highly unlikely that Illinois will approve of mass gatherings at any point during the upcoming NFL season.
We know the NFL is hoping to avoid having to play games without fans, but it seems inevitable. That will especially be true if the league intends to begin the season on time or close to it.