Tampa, Florida – Tom Brady smoothly shined through a smoked-filled passage entering the ground, leading the Super Bowl champs Buccaneers against the Cowboys of Dallas on Thursday night in an open stadium. For the first time, the stadium was crowded with the audience since the epidemic started in 2019 and changed the way sports competitions were viewed.
The NFL began its one of the biggest seasons with teams following a 17 days game schedule and zero capacity restrictions as the league went along with MLB, NBA, NHL, NCCA, and many other leagues in lifting its gates to the stadiums already sold out.
Previously, there were no such capacity limitations in-game trials and preseason as most sports fans tend to dodge exhibition games.
Surprisingly, the case was the opposite at Raymond James Stadium, where fans who made an audience of 65,000 came to watch Buccaneers celebrating their victory before the game fully started.
During a small game ceremony held before the game started, Bryan Glazer addressed the crowd, “Seven months ago, we made NFL history,”
“There was one thing missing: All of you. Welcome back to Raymond James Stadium.”
Thousands of sports lovers stood outside the stadium eating and drinking while waiting for the stadium doors to open. Right when the doors opened, the crowd rushed inside the stadium.
As Covid rises, sports enthusiasts are making their way back home as the country reports more than 150,000 cases regularly. The deadly delta variant surge is leaving no vacant places at facilities around the country. The schools that got open for a bit are now again moving back towards remote learning. With more than 650,000 current death rates, the US projects the country will see up to 750,000 cases till December.
In the last conference of the league, NFL exec. and VP of events and club work, Peter O’Reilly, said, “We and our clubs are in daily and regular conversations with local and state authorities, but as we sit here right now, we don’t anticipate any reduction in capacity this year,”
He further added that “We feel good about where we stand, given the vaccination rates across the country, and feel as though we will be able to move through the season. We don’t take anything for granted; we work closely on all of our protocols, working with and under the guidance of those state and local authorities. As we sit here today, all 30 stadiums can be at full capacity and that’s how we expect to go through the season in lockstep with those local and state authorities.”
The NFL team is expected to work with the protocols for the crowd attending the game. The Saints of New Orleans, Seahawks of Seattle, and Raider of Las Vegas already have declared to be requiring evidence of vaccination from the crowd. Other sports teams can join them on their way.
The Buccaneers seem to have relaxed some of the Covid safety protocols as they were not checking temperatures and asking the audience to wear masks. However, they have asked to keep a safe distance for the indoor audience, irrespective of their vaccination record.
One of the fans of Buccaneers, Terry Leonas claimed, he is fully vaccinated, and following the protocols, he is not afraid of anything at all.
Even though the league has not made vaccination compulsory for the players, those who are not are strictly commanded to follow the protocols. Moving forward, seventeen teams are reported to be 95 percent or above vaccinated, while Falcons and Buccaneers are 100 percent fully vaccinated.