Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed his skepticism that football would be played this year without a bubble system, but Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, says the league will embrace an "ecosystem" model rather than a bubble.
"What we're trying to do is mitigate risk for everybody inside what I call the 'team ecosystem,' which to me means the players, the coaches, the strength and conditioning staff, the medical staff — everybody who is going to be together throughout the course of the season," Dr. Sills told Axios Sports. "All of those individuals are going to share the same risk of being infected because they're going be together all season. They're also going to share the same responsibility to each other to practice appropriate public health guidelines and minimize their own individual risk, which thereby minimizes the risk for the entire group."
What exactly does that mean? It's not totally clear, although it sounds like it leaves the door open for teams traveling and even playing in front of fans, which is something that the NBA and NHL have ruled out for their resumed seasons.
"'Bubble' isn't a medical term, so I prefer 'ecosystem' because I feel like it encompasses the fact that it's everybody who is together with shared responsibility and shared risk," Sills said.
While Sills was not willing to fully embrace Fauci's bubble suggestion, he did acknowledge that the NFL season will be vastly different from what fans have come to expect due to the COVID-19 crisis.
"There are going to be a lot of changes in the way that we do things, from how we practice, to how we lay out our facilities, to how we travel, to how we organize sidelines and the on-field experience," he said.