As professional football marches toward a return later this year, the NFL has considered a variety of scenarios and contingency plans to account for the ever-changing landscape caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The list of possibilities could include a significantly altered preseason.
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the league and the players union have discussed the prospect of reducing the preseason from its customary four-game slate to just two contests.
The NFL has already taken several steps to limit exposure of players and club employees to the coronavirus. From March until this week, the league closed team facilities, forcing players, coaches, and executives to work remotely. Coaches have since returned to their offices, but players remain away except for those in need of medical treatment.
For years, the preseason has featured four games for nearly every team (two teams play a fifth during Hall of Fame induction weekend). However, the NFL preseason lasted six games until the late 1970s when the regular season increased to 16 games. As the league plans to expand the regular season to 17 games in 2021, reducing the preseason seems a likely result if not a fait accompli. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic might have simply expedited the process.
As things currently stand, the Los Angeles Chargers will begin a four-game preseason slate on Aug. 16 against the Dallas Cowboys. That game will serve as Los Angeles' debut in SoFi Stadium, their new shared home set to open later this year. The Chargers will then "host" the Los Angeles Rams on Aug. 22 before traveling for matchups with the Seattle Seahawks (Aug. 27) and the San Francisco 49ers (Sept. 3).
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH