NFL expects stadiums at full capacity in 2021, will increase salary cap ceiling to $208.2 million in 2022

As the NFL continues setting the stage for its upcoming season, one thing is becoming abundantly clear: the 2021 version of the league will much more closely resemble its 2019 pre-pandemic product than the one impacted by COVID-19 last year.

In a media conference call Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell said there's a "tremendous amount of optimism and excitement that we will have full stadiums across our league this year," saying 30 of the 32 teams have already gained approval to operate at 100% capacity.

"We do expect full stadiums."

Goodell added there has been a "significant spike in our renewal rate of season tickets, which is over 90% at this stage, which is very consistent – and maybe slightly higher – than years prior."

The league will continue to employ enhanced sanitization measures while relying on mobile ticketing among virus countermeasures.

The current virus positivity rate for players and staff throughout the league is about .04% according to Goodell, roughly half of the typical threshold in 2020. The league continues its efforts to educate players and staff about the benefits of vaccination with plans to lift protocols for those who are inoculated, Goodell saying "the priority being keeping our players safe." 

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However he said players who haven't gotten shots must continue following more stringent COVID-19 protocols.

All 32 teams have already achieved an 85% vaccination rates among Tier 1 and Tier 2 personnel, with 30 exceeding 90%.

The league also expects fans back at training camps with the caveat that all teams will have to adhere to local safety regulations.

In other business:

► USA TODAY Sports confirmed through a league spokesman that the 2022 salary cap will expand to a ceiling of $208.2 million, which would be a 14% increase over 2021, when the financial impacts of COVID-19 reduced the cap to $182.5 million.

► In ongoing efforts to improve player safety, the league approved a rule prohibiting blocking below the waist "when contact occurs beyond five yards on either side of the line of scrimmage and more than two yards outside of either offensive tackle." Violations will result in a 15-yard penalty.

"We think this is another significant change in making our game safer for our players," said Goodell.

► Goodell announced rosters will be reduced incrementally during preseason before reaching the 53-player threshold following the third game.

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Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

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