Fans in the stands during NFL games could be a team-by-team decision depending on the state location. James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

As record coronavirus case numbers continue to emerge in numerous states housing NFL franchises, the league and the NFL Players Association remain in discussions on a number of COVID-19-related matters ahead of training camps. 

One key element in these talks: Attendance.

The NFL has gradually come around to the fact this will not be an optimal season for attendance but does not appear ready to concede fans will not be in stadiums. The league does not envision a uniform policy regarding attendance and is instead planning to leave it up to states to decide which teams can have spectators at venues, reports Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic (subscription required).

The league has communicated to teams they will need to follow local COVID-19 protocols, which have varied from state to state since the pandemic surfaced in the U.S. This could well mean teams will be permitted to separately set attendance limits this season as opposed to the league putting the kibosh on fans attending all games.

“Attendance will be a state-by-state, county-by-county thing,” an NFL source told Kaplan. “It will not be a one size fits all. I wish they would push back the start of the year to October to give us more time to learn from these other leagues.”

The NFL has launched a stadium reopening task force that is expected to issue recommendations by next week or early next month, Kaplan adds. A team-by-team attendance plan would create some issues. Competitive advantages for certain teams would obviously be one of them, with the risk of fans attending games during a pandemic certainly dwarfing that concern. But the ramifications of a fan-less season would be significant.

A loss of at least $3 billion would hit the NFL if fans could not attend games this season. That has prompted the NFL and NFLPA to discuss how to handle the 2021 salary cap. Around a third of the league’s teams have had someone test positive for the virus

This remains a delicate, fluid situation that has coaches uncertain on the logistics. Florida and Texas have seen record surges over the past several days, and these states — which house five NFL franchises between them — were some of the first to indicate sports would reopen.

This article first appeared on Pro Football Rumors and was syndicated with permission.

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