No bubbles, but NFL playoff training camps likely if Covid-19 cases continue

Key Points
  • The NFL is contemplating a training camp model that would require teams to stay at in-market hotels during the playoffs.
  • The league released its latest Covid-19 testing results on Wednesday, reporting 86 new cases of Covid-19.
Cleveland Browns Quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) hands off to Cleveland Browns Running Back Nick Chubb (24) during the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 29, 2020 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fl.
David Rosenblum | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

Despite the National Football League's most recent Covid-19 outbreak, the league is still planning to hold in-market games for the remainder of its season and playoffs.

The NFL is standing firm on its timeline to play its 256-game schedule in 17 weeks and completing the year on Feb. 7 with Super Bowl LV. But, the league could switch to training camp-like models in order to make it work

According to people with knowledge of the situation, the NFL recognized that there were few Covid-19 cases during training camps and wants to bring back that model by January when the postseason is scheduled to commence if team cases increase.

The individuals spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity as discussions are on-going.

NFL officials have publicly stated the league is against playing in bubble environments, with mental health a primary concern. Under this model, playoff clubs would remain in-market but stay at hotels the entire week leading up to playoff games.

The league's website,, reported on the early talks for installing the "local bubbles" on Sunday.

The people said keeping clubs in hotels would allow the NFL to better monitor teams while also keeping players and staff near families. One of the individuals pointed to the Aug. 12 through Aug. 20 testing report when the NFL reported no positive cases among players, to support installing the model.

The NFL is against moving into bubble environments that emulate the National Basketball Association because it wants to avoid any potential backlash if local health and first-responder resources are needed to aid football rosters.

Tom Brady (12) of the Buccaneers throws a pass during the regular season game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 29, 2020 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Cliff Welch | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

And should more government officials ban sporting events, similar to Santa Clara County's decision, which prompted the San Francisco 49ers to move games, the NFL would have empty "tier 1" stadiums from non-playoff teams to relocate games.

Those team stadiums include the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys should the teams miss the playoffs.

The NFL's Week 12 is officially over following the Pittsburgh Steelers' game against the Baltimore Ravens today. The game was initially scheduled for Thanksgiving but postponed three times after the Ravens' recent Covid-19 outbreak. The club revealed over 20 positive cases, the largest outbreak since the Tennessee Titans' outbreak in Week 4.

The NFL released its latest Covid-19 testing results on Wednesday, reporting 86 new cases (33 players) between Nov. 22 and Nov. 28. Since the NFL started testing, 156 players and 270 other personnel have tested positive for Covid-19.