The Broncos just got a big break. The cuts won’t be as deep and difficult. They’ll possess a record Mile High 69 players this regular season.
Yet, in 51 days the Broncos may play in front of the smallest home-opener crowd since 1961, when 14,500 (imaginatively estimated) showed up at the original Bears Stadium as the Broncos lost to the then Dallas Texas (later Kansas City Chiefs).
The Broncos-Tennessee Titans Monday night game Sept. 14 could have from zero spectators to about 15,000 (20 percent of capacity). The Broncos attracted 5,861 interested folks for a New York Titans game in 1960.) The NFL’s home sellout streak mark of 411 will require an *.
For the first time, players will wear their helmet face masks, and the fans must wear face masks, too, according to the agreement between the NFL owners and the Players Association finalized Friday.
A face mask exception will be made when patrons are eating and drinking, so some can avoid the regulation by consuming beer and nachos the entire game. Social distancing also is a necessity. It’s also possible that anyone 70 or older will not be permitted to attend games. I may have to obtain a fraudulent ID for the first time since college.
Although the league established a path to play Friday — eliminating the rest of the exhibitions and establishing rules for health, safety, testing, practice schedules and roster size — the actual approval for faithful in stadiums will be determined by local and state authorities in cooperation with the teams and the current coronavirus circumstances in cities.
The Broncos have made no determination on potential in-person audience numbers, although franchise officials did an array of computer analysis and has made several critical changes at the stadium.
Touchless toilets, for instance.
Don’t expect tailgating.
Broncos season-ticket holders will receive first choice on single-game tickets, or they can choose to opt out for 2020 and keep their priority positions in ’21. Those Broncos fanatics who travel to road games may want to reconsider or at least wait — especially because of the rising COVID-19 cases in states where the Broncos must play.
The New Jersey governor has announced that no outside observers can be in attendance at MetLife Stadium until further notice. The Broncos are scheduled in New Jersey against the Jets on Oct. 1. The Broncos’ first game away from Denver is in Pittsburgh on Sept. 20, and the Steelers hope that the masses can be present. However, the Patriots, who are home vs. the Broncos on Oct. 11, are planning to permit 20 percent of ticket holders in the stadium.
The Falcons, who host the Broncos on Nov. 8, are predicting crowds of 10,000-20,000, and the Panthers, the Broncos’ opponent Dec. 13, have made no announcement.
As usual, the Broncos confront a brutal cold-weather game in Kansas City on Dec. 6, and the Chiefs expect limited seating.
Which leaves the Broncos’ visits to the two new stadiums in Las Vegas (Nov. 15 against the Raiders) and Los Angeles (Dec. 27 vs. the Chargers). In a normal world, tens of thousands of Broncos zealots would go (and outnumber the few and the not-so-proud Chargers chuckleheads). But the L.A. teams will be restricting the assembly, and Raiders owner Mark Davis has taken an all-or-nobody stance. If every ticket holder can’t go, the stadium will be empty, and he won’t even grace the place with his presence.
In the meantime, the Broncos’ veterans arrive Tuesday for their most extraordinary training camp since the original one in Golden. The players will take coronavirus tests for four days and physical exams for two more. Then the Broncos will do strength and conditioning drills for days before practicing. They can’t wear pads with helmets until at least Aug. 17. On the day before the Broncos must be down to 80 players.
Ten players who worked all spring and summer for an NFL opportunity will not earn one full workout or an exhibition. On the positive side for others, the practice squad, which was supposed to be 12 players in 2020, has been increased to 16. Two of those players can be activated each week to swell the roster to 55.
And the new NFL playing rules will have overtime start with the quarterback at second base.
I’m kidding. That’s another sport. The NFL will be weird and wild enough.