NFL finalizing artificial crowd noise policy; Roger Goodell says league wants to 'invite our fans in'

The NFL is finalizing policies for artificial crowd noise as most of its teams prepare to open the season without fans in their stadiums, league executive vice president Troy Vincent said Tuesday.

The league has curated an audio track that would be played at every game without fans, Vincent said. The league's competition committee will meet this week to finalize plans, including the maximum decibel level allowed. Stadiums with fans will have the option to use the track as well.

Of the league's 32 teams, 26 have said they won't have fans at their Week 1 games. Five will allow them at reduced capacities: The Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. The Cleveland Browns have not yet announced their plans.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that the league would not implement a blanket policy to close all stadiums to fans, at least not for competitive reasons. As long as teams follow local and state health guidelines, Goodell said, "we want to invite our fans in."

Goodell, in fact, said some teams could open up their stadiums later this fall. In the meantime, he said, the league does not consider the policy to be a competitive advantage for the five teams that are allowing fans in.

"We do not believe it is," Goodell said. "We do not see that. We obviously have varying capacity throughout the league. From our standpoint, we want to invite our fans in, if we can do it safely and if we can do it with the full support of public health officials."

With or without fans in the stands, the NFL has been bolstered by exceptionally low numbers of positive COVID-19 test results. Since Aug. 12, when the primary portion of training camp began, only 16 confirmed positive test results have been returned from the nearly 9,000 players, coaches and staff who have been tested on a daily basis.

In the most recent testing period from Aug. 21-29, announced Tuesday, there were four positive tests among players and six from team personnel. According to the data over that period, a total of 8,739 players and personnel were given 58,621 tests. That included 23,279 tests to 2,747 players and 35,342 tests to 5,992 personnel.

"The big thing for us is to not get comfortable," Goodell said. "The protocols are working but we're dealing with a lot of uncertainty here. This is a pandemic that we're still learning about. We've had to put together an entire infrastructure for testing across our league, getting results very quickly. But we really have to adapt to the medical community here and rely on our experts that have been wonderful in putting together this plan. ... We're not patting ourselves on the back yet. We're just on the eve of the season."

The NFL and NFLPA are close to finalizing plans on testing during the season. Their current agreement mandates daily testing through Sept. 5. Earlier this week, the league sent teams updated protocol that minimized the chance for players to miss a game because of a false-positive test. It also updated the policy for coaches and other staff on the sideline during games. They will be required to wear a mask. Previous guidance made it strongly encouraged.