NFL commissioner Roger Goodell does not believe that hosting the playoffs in a single bubble environment is the proper route for the league to conclude the season.
Goodell cited the NFL's COVID-19 protocols as reason to stay away from a central playoff location. He left open the possibility for 32 team-specific bubble environments to be enacted in the future.
"We don’t see the bubble as most refer to it in one location," Goodell said. "We feel strongly our protocols are working. We’re willing to adjust and adapt those protocols, take additional steps. But I don’t see us doing the bubble in the sense that the media focuses on it."
Discussion of a playoff bubble comes as the NFL combats COVID-19 outbreaks by teams, multiple game postponements and inactive players. Wednesday's Steelers-Ravens game was impacted by several of these reasons. Additionally, the Broncos were forced to play Week 12 without a regular quarterback after Jeff Driskel tested positive for COVID-19 and the team's other three signal-callers were deemed high-risk close contacts.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rappoport and Tom Pelissero, NFL officials have discussed plans to create "local bubbles" for the teams in the playoffs. The protocols include isolating players and personnel in hotels and enforcing limitations on who is permitted to interact with those isolated.
The potential plan is seen as more feasible by the NFL than what the NBA and NHL accomplished in hosting their playoffs in one or two locations. The NFL players' union would need to approve any bubble plan.
Though the NFL prefers to finish the season without using a bubble, the league will consider other possibilities if a bubble format is deemed necessary for the postseason to be completed on schedule, according to The Washington Post's Mark Maske.
The NFL playoffs are scheduled to begin on Jan. 9 with the Wild Card rounds.