Roger Goodell

The NFL isn't backing down from its hope of a season in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, despite facing a new set of problems and dwindling time to get everything figured out. Things appeared to be swiftly getting back on track in time to end the virtual offseason on June 26 and potentially aim at opening training camps in mid- to late-July, if not slightly sooner, but things are taking a dark turn as of late. Groups of players from several teams tested positive for the coronavirus in June -- headlined by Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott -- leading to the NFLPA asking players to halt all private workouts with teammates from here on out.

Each of these situations is a black eye to the chances of an NFL season in the fall, but the league is reportedly still optimistic there will be games played in 2020, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. 

The NFL and NFLPA recently released a joint set of stringent COVID-19 protocol each team must adhere to before players are allowed to return to facilities, a list that includes rearranging the locker room and redesigning on-the-field group workouts, but head coaches John Harbaugh and Sean McVay have already professed some of it as "humanly impossible," given how football is a contact sport. None of it seems to deter the league's front office though, with their bigger concern seemingly being if fans will be allowed to attend games. When it comes to that, the league reportedly isn't so hopeful, despite states like Texas having entered Phase 3 of reopening -- granting teams permission to house up to 50 percent stadium capacity.

That was in early June though, before the rash of positive COVID-19 tests that included both the Cowboys and the Houston Texans, and the reopening of Florida has been met with positive tests from at least one coach and several players of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

That said, it remains unlikely teams like the Cowboys would be willing to take on the liability of opening the doors to fans.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the leading voice on how the country should manage the coronavirus pandemic, agrees that all hope is not yet lost for a possible NFL season in 2020 -- albeit with a stern warning. Fauci feels the only way it will/can take place is if the league follows the example of the soon-to-reopen NBA, as the latter readies to resume its season using Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida as a bubble. 

"Unless players are essentially in a bubble -- insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day -- it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall," Fauci said, via CNN. "If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year."

Fauci's comments were met with a response from Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer. 

"Dr. Fauci has identified the important health and safety issues we and the NFL Players Association, together with our joint medical advisors, are addressing to mitigate the health risk to players, coaches and other essential personnel," he said. "We are developing a comprehensive and rapid-result testing program and rigorous protocols that call for a shared responsibility from everyone inside our football ecosystem. This is based on the collective guidance of public health officials, including the White House task force, the CDC, infectious disease experts and other sports leagues."

Sills went on to acknowledge what the NFL is up against, but echoes reporting of the league's optimism regarding the season. 

"Make no mistake, this is no easy task," he added. "We will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season as scheduled with increased protocols and safety measures for all players, personnel and attendees. We will be flexible and adaptable in this environment to adjust to the virus as needed." 

As for the bubble concept, Sills shot it down directly in an interview with NFL Network. 

"We do not feel it's practical or appropriate to construct a bubble," he said. "Anyone who tests positive will be isolated until medically appropriate to return."

This of course introduces a myriad of possible scenarios that could create potential bedlam at some point of of the season and particularly in the playoffs, as players and/or coaches potentially test positive for COVID-19 with some of the biggest games on the calendar. There are some very real nightmare scenarios hiding in the bushes for the NFL over the coming weeks and months, but the biggest would be to see the season canceled altogether, and the league is far from throwing in the towel in that fight -- at least for now.