New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton expects the coronavirus pandemic to significantly impact the NFL season. Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

As MLB deals with its first COVID-19 outbreak and the suspension of multiple games , the NFL prepares for a 2020 season that will take place amid the pandemic. Looking ahead to the fall, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton now anticipates the NFL could be destined for a similar fate.

The Saints started welcoming their players for training camp this week to go through COVID-19 testing and start getting in shape for a full season. While the NFL anticipates there will be a full season, though, Payton doesn’t seem to be as confident.

As players arrive for training camp and teams prepare their facilities to follow COVID-19 guidelines, it’s likelier than ever that the 2020 NFL season will start on time. However, doubt still remains about just how long it will last without a stoppage.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Payton talked about the difficulties every team will face this fall and admitted he wouldn’t be surprised if a COVID-19 outbreak forces the NFL to suspend games.

The NFL has created strict social-distancing guidelines at team facilities and could withhold salaries for any player who commits high-risk actions. While the league won’t be able to hold its season in a bubble, it is creating rules to try and limit potential exposure to the coronavirus.

However, the only pro sports to return successfully without issues achieved that because players and coaches stayed in a bubble. For the NFL, it depends on personnel to avoid going out into public spaces from August through January.

Given all of the risks that are created by playing during a pandemic, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if a team experiences an outbreak of the virus. MLB wasn’t prepared for that moment and it led to days of criticism and the league throwing new plans together.

The NFL still has time to get it right. While suspending games would be far from ideal, the league can still make it work if there is a firm plan in place. Otherwise, one outbreak could be catastrophic for the 2020 NFL season.

This article first appeared on Sportsnaut and was syndicated with permission.

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