Canada

NFL games on Saturdays all fall? Don’t be surprised

NFL games on Saturdays this fall? Don’t be surprised.

Amid gloomy reports that Big Ten conference presidents were set to officially vote Monday night to scrub the 2020 fall football season for its 14 members — which include Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa — and with the expectation the Pac-12 would be next to do so, speculation ramped up Monday afternoon that the NFL might reschedule some games to Saturday afternoons and evenings.

But will it get that far?

Big Ten coaches, led by Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, immediately fought back against what seemed like inevitability. In public statements, these coaches tried hard Monday to convince their own conference presidents and the public alike that they’re operating fall camps responsibly, re: COVID-19, and that their players have worked hard for six months and deserve the chance to play this fall, etc.

What’s more, many of the game’s top stars — led by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, next year’s expected No. 1 overall NFL draft pick — formed a rare, national ad-hoc coalition of college players and lobbied late Sunday night on social media for the season to proceed, using the hashtag #WeWantToPlay.

Lawrence rightly pointed out that players would be far safer on campus, supervised and cared for by team physicians and medical staffs, in closely observed environments, than they would be on their own, at home, without any curfews or controls in place all fall and, for underclassmen, perhaps deep into next year.

But, should all the college dominoes fall and all five “Power 5” conferences indeed pull the 2020 plug — this, after all lower-division NCAA schools voted last week to do so, and Canadian universities did so in June — there would be enormous autumn football TV-viewing gaps south of the border to fill on Saturdays.

In that event, expect the NFL to quickly fill them.

Based on a few communications I had Monday with sources, don’t expect a single soul connected to the NFL to comment on possibilities the league might fill Saturday TV vacancies, at least before any become official.

Well-connected NFL reporter Mike Freeman tweeted: “NFL GM tells me he believes it’s a foregone conclusion the NFL will play regularly on Saturdays” if there’s no U.S. college football.

As the NFL schedule currently stands, Saturday games are slated only for the last two weekends of December, on the 19th and 26th — after the college regular season typically concludes and before the bowl schedule ramps up.

But not all college football Power 5 conferences are as anxious to shut down football as Big Ten presidents apparently are (12 of 14, according to syndicated radio host Dan Patrick on Monday).

For the past 120-odd years, the Big Ten has prided itself, right or wrong, on being a reform leader. It long has been the likeliest league at college sports’ uppermost competitive level to embrace conservatism, carefulness and glacial evolution, and loves to be seen as being a leader at such.

The Big Ten also historically is the last to blaze any new trail that in any way could be perceived as doing anything anti-academic, or that punts athletics farther from beloved old-school ideals that, in fact, never existed in the first place.

For instance, the Big Ten prevented all member schools from playing on or past U.S. Thanksgiving for decades following its drastic reform moves of 1906. The league made one post-Thanksgiving weekend exception from 1946 through 1974 (for the Big Ten champion to play in the Rose Bowl), during which time other top conferences all gladly permitted as many members as possible to enjoy their post-season bowl-game rewards.

Big Ten leaders also slow-walked the growth of televised NCAA games from the 1950s through the early 1980s, during which time a single university could appear annually on network TV no more than two or three times.

There’s no way Big Ten leaders today want to be last, or even second, to pull the 2020 plug, if that’s where they sense this thing is headed. And if they go, other leagues surely would follow suit, however unhappily.

To wit, the University of Arkansas plays in the SEC and its athletic director, Hunter Yurachek, said Monday, per ESPN’s Paul Finebaum: “I read some articles about the Spanish Flu of 1918. They played college football. College football has survived a number of things over the past 150 years. I truly believe college football can also survive what we’re going through right now.”

We’ll see. That sure didn’t seem likely on Monday.

And college football’s loss probably would be the NFL’s gain.

If not, the CFL should move at hyper-speed to fill those coveted slots.

FAST LEARNING 1

Washington head coach Ron Rivera said this when asked what he wanted media to think after watching his team practise for the first time:

“I want you to be able to say, ‘Man, they practise fast. Man, they move from one drill to the other.’

“To me, that’s one of the things you have to do is play with up-tempo. The only way to do that is practise with an up-tempo. You’ve got to be able to understand how things have to be done. We’re not going to get an opportunity to play any preseason games, so when we practise we’ve got to practise faster.”

FAST LEARNING 2

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones II, on a video conference call with reporters, was asked how 43-year-old QB Tom Brady is picking up head coach Bruce Arians’ offensive playbook.

“He hasn’t missed a beat,” Jones said. “He hasn’t missed anybody on a play, or (anything) like that, so you wouldn’t even know (he’s new to the offence).”

DARIUS SLAYS PATRICIA

Former Lions cornerback (and now Philadelphia Eagle) Darius Slay sure has a lot still to get off his chest about his last two years in Detroit, under head coach Matt Patricia. Per reports, on Monday he told reporters he likes the environment in Philadelphia, where players “are treated like grown men” and can be themselves.

“They let you do that here.”

Bam.

EXTRA POINTS

Miami signed ex-Indy WR Chester Rogers and activated LB Calvin Munson off reserve/COVID-19 … Indianapolis signed former New Orleans DT Taylor Stallworth.

Football news:

Cherevchenko about Khimki: we will work both tactically and physically. Need to tighten up the team
Milan have agreed a transfer of the forward Bude-Glimt Hauge for 5 million euros. He scored them in the Europa League
Juventus offers Khedira 3 million euros for breaking the contract. The German demands 6 million
Tottenham are ready to sell Voigt for 10 million euros and increase the offer for Skrinjar to 45 million
Bellerin on 1:3 with Liverpool: Arsenal could have drawn or won
Klopp on the leadership of Leicester, Liverpool and Everton after 3 rounds: who cares who is in the lead now? This is just the beginning
Olas on Depay and Aouar: those who do not have time to leave before October 2, will remain in Lyon