ALLEN PARK — The Minnesota Vikings will open their home slate without fans in the stands, meaning the entire NFC North will start the season without anyone in attendance.
Minnesota announced it would keep the stands at U.S. Bank Stadium empty for its games against the Packers (Sept. 13) and Titans (Sept. 27). The Detroit Lions announced late last week it would do the same through the first two games of the year at Ford Field.
This means the stands will be empty against the Bears on Sept. 13, and again against the Saints on Oct. 4 in Detroit. The Lions are offering season-ticket holders two packages, with three games featured on each. The blue package includes home games against the Washington Football Team, Texans and Vikings. The silver package contains matchups against the Colts, Packers and Buccaneers.
In Detroit, the parking lots and team store will also be closed to fans through the first two weeks of the season. The Lions will re-evaluate the situation heading into their matchup with the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 1 at Ford Field. Green Bay and Chicago are also rolling with the two-game approach to evaluate if fans can attend home contests later on.
“We have spent considerable time and resources implementing new gameday protocols at Ford Field and are ready to host fans at Lions games once approved by state guidelines,” Lions president Rod Wood said in a previously prepared statement. “The health and safety of our players, coaches and staff, has been a focal point for all facets of 2020 season planning as demonstrated by being one of the first teams to gain approval from the NFL and NFLPA for meeting training camp COVID-19 requirements. We have the utmost confidence that we can provide a safe and enjoyable experience for fans at our stadium.”
Some changes to Ford Field in preparation for the challenging season include a new air filtration system, hundreds of touchless sanitizer stations, Plexiglas at every point of sale and pre-packaged food offerings.
“You know, I think this year is just going to (be about) show up and play,” Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford previously said on Ford Field sans fans. “We don’t know if anybody is going to be in the stands if they’re going to be pumping crowd noise in, how that’s going to go. I don’t know. I can’t worry about all that kind of stuff. It’s for sure going to be different than I’m used to, hearing Ford Field going crazy, especially for a home opener. That will be different. But so is everything since 2020 hit, so it might as well be different and just go on with it and play ball.
“We’re doing everything we can to prepare for whatever scenarios. Sometimes we’re pumping music into practice, sometimes we’re not and it’s quiet. I know training camp has a different feel to it. There are no fans out there. When you make a big play, it’s just ho-hum, go to the next one. It’s all a little bit different, but we’ve got to continue to get ready to go play. That’s what it’s all about. I know people will be watching from home and cheering us on from home, so still have got to make them proud.”
The league allows teams the power to decide (in conjunction with state/local guidelines) if fans can attend. The Kansas City Chiefs welcomed fans to a recent training camp session and will let 22,000 into Arrowhead Stadium this year. The Miami Dolphins will welcome 13,000 fans into their stadium, despite Florida standing as an unquestioned hotbed during the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 177,000 Americans in recent months. According to the CDC, Florida has more than 10,000 deaths and 600,000-plus cases, ranking second in cases and third in deaths.
ESPN reports 15 of the 32 NFL teams have ruled against letting fans inside to start the season.