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NFL players say they were frazzled by the lack of fans at their first games: 'This felt more like a high school scrimmage'

INSIDER logoINSIDER 9/14/2020 (Scott Davis)
a group of football players on a field: The New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers play without fans on September 13, 2020. Chris Graythen/Getty Images © Chris Graythen/Getty Images The New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers play without fans on September 13, 2020. Chris Graythen/Getty Images
  • Most NFL teams began the season without fans in attendance.
  • The silence threw off many players, who described the atmosphere as "strange" or like a "high school scrimmage."
  • Players say it's now on them to generate their own energy.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The 2020 NFL season is off and running, though this year looks different than any other.

So far, only two teams have allowed fans at their stadiums: the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars, both at limited capacity. In total, seven teams currently plan to have fans at their stadiums.

The other 12 games — plus two more on Monday — were played in empty stadiums, which players said threw them off.

"The atmosphere from the time we came out of the tunnel was unlike anything any of us have felt," New England Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty told NBC's Peter King. "You can't really envision what an NFL game is like without fans. This felt more like a high school scrimmage. Maybe you travel somewhere for a scrimmage, and your parents come, but no other fans."

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told reporters after the Packers' win over the Minnesota Vikings that the silence in the Vikings' U.S. Bank Stadium threw him off, too.

"One of the strangest experiences I've had in the NFL to be in a stadium like this and have memories of some really rockin' times," he said.

New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook agreed. 

"It was quite different. Pretty much the whole game we were on the sideline talking about how different it was," he told reporters, according to The Athletic's Katherine Terrell.

a group of people on a grass court: The Packers take the field against the Minnesota Vikings on Week 1. Bruce Kluckhohn/AP Images © Provided by INSIDER The Packers take the field against the Minnesota Vikings on Week 1. Bruce Kluckhohn/AP Images Many of the teams, including the Los Angeles Rams in their newly built SoFi Stadium, used pumped-in crowd noise to fill the void.

Video: NFL Week 1 overreactions: New coach, same disappointing Cowboys (USA TODAY)


The Athletic reported that although the Saints' Superdome didn't have fans,, the few people in attendance — from security guards to PA announcers to practice squad players — tried to make enough noise themselves. Players jumped up and down on the sidelines to cheer on their teammates. But when the game went to a commercial break, the virtual fan noise cut out, leaving the Superdome eerily silent.

Ahead of the season's start, Tom Brady argued that the pumped-in crowd noise actually makes the experience more difficult, since the sound is constant, whereas actual crowd noise ebbs and flows.

Several players said it was difficult to muster their own energy without an audience.

McCourty told King :"When you play in a stadium with no fans, no noise, you've got to bring your own energy for three hours ... And you win, nobody to high-five, no kid to throw your gloves to. You come to the realization that we're going to have to do a lot of this ourselves, generate a lot of the energy ourselves."

Cook echoed the sentiment.

"I think [the inactive players] did a great job bringing energy themselves," he told the Athletic. "It definitely felt a little off … You have to bring your own energy. You have to bring your own juice."

Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu, meanwhile, called for a plan to bring fans back safely.

But many teams have already said they'll be without fans for at least the first two weeks or the first month of games, then reevaluate. Others cannot have fans indefinitely due to local or state regulations on crowds.

Though it's too early to draw conclusions, six road teams won in Week 1, suggesting that the silence does indeed diminish home-field advantage.

"Just a different atmosphere," Rodgers said. "This is a tough place to play with the noise, as is Lambeau, so it's going to be strange next week to not hear our fans either."

Read the original article on Insider


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