MetLife Stadium will be empty this year when the New York Giants and Jets play their home games there. No, that’s not some hyperbole about attendance getting lower because the team hasn’t won much in recent years. The stadium will literally be empty, a decision made to protect fans from COVID-19.
For a lot of players, this is a strange thing. After all, the players that make up the ranks of the NFL now were stars in high school and college. People always turned out to see them. In the NFL, tens of thousands of fans packed stadiums every week to see them play professionally.
Now, the NFL will have to join other leagues in getting used to the reality of an empty stadium. It’s an odd vibe, and the Giants received their first taste of it during the Blue-White Scrimmage which recently concluded.
Saquon Barkley speaks on the empty stadium atmosphere
This is probably one of the first times Saquon Barkley has played in front of an empty stadium. After all, he was a star since high school and during college, he played at Penn State – a school that has one of the largest stadiums in the world, which is typically sold out.
That was a far cry from a MetLife Stadium without fans.
“I remember at one point on the sideline, Evan [Engram] and I looked at each other and said, ‘Wow, we’re really in a pandemic.’ We looked at the coaches, the coaches had masks on, there were no fans there. Obviously, we have tremendous fans and we would love for them to be there. But we know what’s going on in the world, especially with COVID going on right now, too,” Barkley said following the scrimmage.
“It kind of felt like practice. I think that’s kind of going to be the vibe for the season. Hopefully, we’re able to find something that we would be able to bring fans back by the end of the season. But that’s the way it’s going to be. It felt like practice. You go out there with your teammates, you have music going, you go out there and you just try to get better,” Barkley continued.
Still, the Giants are lucky to have a season at all. There was no guarantee that the league’s plans to fight the ongoing pandemic would work, but luckily the Giants have avoided players falling ill with it and the team has been able to carry on their training camp as normal.
It’s a luckiness that Barkley also admits, as the Giants prepare to open the season with the first game of this strange empty season era.
“You love this game. You wake up every single day and be able to play the game you love since you were a little kid. So, go out there and have fun with it, whether there are fans or not.”