If there is a 2020 NFL season, you can probably expect it to look a lot different than the normal season. Regardless of the changes, NFL fans will most likely be happy to have football back in any capacity. Nonetheless, some of the changes that the league could have in store definitely shake up the schedule that we're used to.
At this point, the NFL schedule has usually already been released, and insider Peter King hinted that the league would have a couple of schedules ready in order to prepare for different possible outcomes, such as a 14-game schedule with a bye week, a 12-game schedule without a bye week and so on. King was on the right path, and we're now able to see some of the other potential options that the league reportedly could use as contingency plans.
According to John Ourand and Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal, some of the alternate considerations added to the schedule include an October 15 start to the regular season, the elimination of bye weeks and the Pro Bowl, and the postponement of the Super Bowl until the last day of February. Ourand and Fischer additionally add that while the initial schedule released will look like a "standard 16-game, 17-week slate," it will come with various provisions and contingencies in order to account for the unpredictability of the time.
The two primary goals that NFL media and the scheduling department are trying to achieve are that a full 16-game season remains a distinct possibility and that the Super Bowl is still played in the month of February, be it the final day, or the first Sunday of the month.
When can we expect the schedule? Ourand and Fischer say that there is still "internal debate... about whether the league should even announce anything" given the nature of this coronavirus pandemic and the ever-changing policies and suggestions handed down by government and health authorities. However, the NFL has not done anything to definitively overturn their prior statement that the schedule can be expected in the second week of May.
The NFL, like all major sports leagues, are delicately attempting to handle the situation while taking into account the best interests of the players, the coaches, the media, the fans and all other parties involved.
A recent hitch in the probability of an NFL return was brought up by NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, who said that the NFL is not currently viewed as "essential" -- nor should it be -- and that once testing kits become more widely available, they will be distributed for essential needs above any others. That's an issue for the NFL's return, because Smith expects that the league could only return once widespread testing became available for all players, along with declining infection and death rates throughout the nation.