The pandemic surrounding COVID-19 doesn’t lend itself to large gatherings or close contact of any kind, which makes it hard for the NFL.
This virus spreads easily and has already shown that it doesn’t affect every person the same way. Healthy young adults, such as those that are athletes in the NFL, often don’t show symptoms, but might be carriers of this virus. These carriers are considered asymptomatic, and this is cause for concern in many ways.
The NFL has Had to be Flexible Already
One of the toughest movements forward regarding the coronavirus and how sports are being played has been whether or not sports could be played. The biggest concern has been full-contact, close-contact sports such as the NFL. While the NBA was able to successfully execute a bubble scenario, this didn’t seem to be a viable solution for the NFL when it was time to start the season. Football is a sport that requires piles of humanity in close proximity to each other.
You Can’t Play Football and Socially Distance from Others
The COVID-19 pandemic and the NFL are already butting heads. Because teams carry rosters of 53 players, have several coaches and staff, and the sport requires full-contact with each other, it’s impossible to play football and remain socially distant from each other. The NBA Bubble was a success, but this scenario hasn’t been tried for NFL football, although it might make sense to do so.
Teams are Testing Positive for COVID-19
The NFL entered the 2020 season with hope and protocols in place, but that didn’t stop COVID-19 from raising its ugly head. The Tennessee Titans became the first team in the league to have an outbreak with several players and staff members that tested positive for COVID-19. After rescheduling one game, moving the bye week, and playing a game on a Tuesday, the Titans were back on the field after sixteen days without football.
The Titans were Just the Start
Although the Tennessee Titans were the first team to have a positive outbreak of COVID-19 cases, other teams have experienced positive tests as well. The New England Patriots weren’t able to have their starting quarterback, Cam Newton, play in a game due to a positive test, but thankfully he was the only positive test result going into their game. Not long after playing without Newton, another player on the Patriots tested positive along with a practice squad player. Now, the Atlanta Falcons have had to shut down their practices and facilities due to 5 positive tests in only two days.
COVID-19 Showing Up in College Football Too
While it’s easy to expect the NFL players who are paid professionals to take precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19, even if it means a change in lifestyle and living situations, it’s nearly impossible to do the same in college. While the college football season began and many teams have played, from those that choose to play in the fall, COVID-19 has found its way into several teams, creating outbreaks and schedule changes.
How are both the NFL and College Football Handling COVID-19?
Both levels of football have their own unique way of addressing positive cases and scheduling of teams that have had COVID-19 outbreaks. The NFL has more flexibility built into its schedule and has already canceled the Pro Bowl to make sure there’s room to be flexible. The NFL has also scheduled extra Monday Night games and even had a Tuesday game to make sure they can get the games in.
College Football is a Bit Tougher
The delays in the start of the college football season and the shorted schedule don’t offer much flexibility in college football. The Big Ten doesn’t have an off week for altered scheduling because of the late start and the PAC-12 will have the same challenges. The ACC, SEC, and BIG-12 all started early enough to have some flexibility. All college games, including conference championships, will need to be completed by December 19 because the playoff selection committee will make their selections on December 20.
Going Forward is Interesting in the NFL
There’s no expectation that the NFL will have fewer COVID-19 cases going forward, in fact, the expectation is that more teams will be struck with this virus and will have to face the challenges it brings. We might see a season in which we don’t have a full slate of sixteen games in the NFL, but the league and teams are working together to try and have this season be as complete as possible. It might be a slow limp to the finish line with the way COVID-19 is hitting the NFL.