As states and localities around the United States begin re-opening from the lockdowns that were instituted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — some of them faster than others — it remains difficult to predict how the NFL season will play out. But one alternative is never far from the minds of the people whose day-to-day life revolves around the league: the possibility that games could be played without fans in the stadiums.
“It doesn’t feel like it makes much sense to be without fans,” said Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on Friday. “But it’s also part of what we would all have to deal with — if that’s the situation that it comes to. My hope is that we can get everybody back out there and have a stadium full of people — [that] we can go and everybody can stay safe. That’s probably the most important thing — well, it is the most important thing — as we go forward.”
But Reid was also quick to mention that from his perspective, the safety of his players is also a high priority.
“I’d say that same thing for your teams — all the teams around the world that are playing these different sports — that are getting together now,” he said. “I know safety ends up being the thing that’s talked about the most — and we make sure that we’re doing that with our players.”
Some have suggested that if games are played without spectators, no team will have home-field advantage. But Reid — one of the league’s old hands — sees it differently.
“There’s home-field advantage with the fans — and there’s home-field advantage [in] that you don’t travel — and that you know the facility and where everything lays on that field. So you have that part of it,” he said.
It’s true that these other parts of home-field advantage can be under-appreciated. Any road game consumes at least a big chunk of two different days that could otherwise be used for rest and preparation — which means everything to a famously well-prepared coach like Reid.
But he wasn’t inclined to downplay the importance of fans’ support in the stadium, either.
“We love our fans,” he declared. “They are the loudest in the world. It’s ridiculous how loud it gets for our opponents. But on the other hand, we’ll still go play — and there will probably be a lot more talking [between] the players that you can hear; those guys get pretty creative out there in their conversations. But the actual fans? We’ll miss them, if that’s where it goes. But we’ll still be able to function.”
In any case, Reid knows the final decision won’t be up to him. Like so much else in a head coach’s world, it’s simply his job to do the best he can with what he has been given.
“When you’re given these things, you have to go through and say, ‘OK, this is what we’ve got, fellas,’” he explained “You’ve got to muster it up, go play and do all that stuff. If nothing else, we know our fans [will be] watching; the Kansas City fans don’t miss a beat. They’ll make sure our players know that they’re behind us.”