In a season unlike any other, Super Bowl week also will not be like any other.
Super Bowl teams always arrive in the city of the game one week in advance, but this season’s participants are not allowed to arrive in Tampa, Florida, any earlier than the Friday before Super Bowl LV, league sources told ESPN.
If the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers win their conference championship games Sunday, they have tentative plans to arrive in Tampa on Friday, Feb. 5, two days before the Super Bowl, according to sources.
If the Kansas City Chiefs advance to the Super Bowl, they do not plan to arrive in Tampa until the day before the Super Bowl on Feb. 6, according to sources.
The fourth team involved in Sunday’s conference championship games is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who spent the week practicing opposite Raymond James Stadium, in clear sight of the Super Bowl LV banners now hanging on the stadium.
All of these changes and adaptations are being done to keep teams in the COVID-19 prevention routines they have adhered to all season rather than having to do it in another city. Teams now will be approaching the Super Bowl like it’s any other road trip during the season, rather than a trip to the biggest game of the season.
This also means that Super Bowl media day, the Monday night event that has become a Super Bowl staple, will be done virtually. News conferences that have been held with players and coaches on each team also will be done virtually.
Many of the other events associated with Super Bowl week also will go virtual or be canceled, according to a source. Even the post-Super Bowl parties for the winning and losing teams are not certain. Teams have the option of flying home immediately after the game.
Had the Los Angeles Rams beaten the Packers last weekend in the divisional round and advanced to play the higher-seeded Bucs on the road, the NFL would have encountered a situation it never has in its history: Sunday’s conference championship game would have been the first to ever be played on the same Super Bowl grass field that already had been installed in advance of the big game.
Fortunately for the NFL, the Packers beat the Rams, averting an issue the NFL hasn’t had to face before — with a team from the Super Bowl host city advancing as far as the conference championship game.
The NFL installs the Super Bowl field weeks before the actual game itself, and did so in Tampa. The grass for the Super Bowl field is grown months in advance, planned to be unveiled during the big game, but an NFC Championship Game in Tampa would have changed that.
That was not the only change in and around Raymond James Stadium. The league also began transforming the Buccaneers’ parking lot and converting it into fenced-off areas. Many of the Buccaneers banners that surround Raymond James Stadium also have come down in favor of more neutral NFL banners.