‘Risky’? Dolphins to allow up to 13,000 fans at home opener

No tailgating will be allowed

MIAMI – Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick says an NFL crowd of 13,000 is enough to be heard.

“I played a lot of games in college with less fans than that,” the Harvard alum said Monday. "We’re excited to have fans out there cheering for us.”

The Dolphins announced plans to allow up to 13,000 masked, socially distancing fans to attend their home opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 20, and the decision generated plenty of noise around the NFL and beyond.

Bills coach Sean McDermott described as “ridiculous” the lack of league-wide uniformity regarding crowd sizes during the coronavirus pandemic. Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio disagreed, and said the Dolphins' announcement signifies progress against the virus.

Florida political leaders were also divided. U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala sounded an alarm about spectator safety, but Gov. Ron DeSantis said cheering crowds are something to cheer about.

“Look, we’ve been watching sports on TV," DeSantis said during a news conference at the Dolphins' stadium to announce their plan. "But when you watch the NBA with an empty arena, or Major League Baseball with an empty stadium, it’s just not quite the same. I know this isn’t going to be people falling from the rafters here, but I think it is something that will give people a little bit of hope.”

Crowd size for the Dolphins-Bills game will be about 20% of the stadium’s 65,326-seat capacity, with groups of spectators spaced 6 feet apart. The same plan will be followed for the University of Miami’s home opener against UAB at the stadium on Sept. 10.

Fifteen of the NFL’s 32 teams have ruled out spectators to start the season. The Dolphins are one of at least eight teams hoping to have a limited number of spectators, while many teams haven’t announced plans.