NFL: League approves plan for 16-team playoff field if COVID-19 forces cancellations

FILE PHOTO: The NFL logo is pictured at an event in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

November 10, 2020

(Reuters) – NFL owners approved a proposal on Tuesday to expand the playoff field from 14 teams to 16 if clubs are unable to complete the same number of regular-season games due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal, which was approved unanimously, is a key contingency plan for the league as it aims to complete its 2020 season on schedule, amid a renewed surge of COVID-19 cases across the United States.

“Our objective is for all teams to safely and responsibly complete the regular season within our 17-week schedule and have a full post-season culminating with a Super Bowl – with fans in the stands – on February 7th in Tampa,” Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters on Tuesday after the league’s virtual meeting.

“We are committed to completing the season as scheduled. Today’s resolution was part of our contingency planning should it be needed.

“The resolution passed today established criteria for post-season eligibility in the event that all clubs cannot play the same number of regular-season games.”

The NFL has seen numerous COVID-19 positives among players, staff and personnel since the start of the season, forcing delays and the rescheduling of games, but so far – through nine weeks of competition – no games have been canceled outright.

The league enhanced its COVID-19 safety protocols last week, instructing teams to broaden the use of face coverings and expand the sideline area. It also stripped the Las Vegas Raiders of a sixth-round draft pick for repeated breaches.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Toby Davis)

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