Amdist the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL, led by its stalwart commissioner, has done all of the right things to date in order to protect its coaches and players, while doing everything it can to stay on schedule for the 2020 football season.
Cases in point:
- The NFL ordered the teams to shut down their training facilities on March 25th.
- The NFL performed a “virtual” NFL Draft in late April (to record setting viewership).
- The NFL required teams to conduct their team activities remotely through Zoom conferences through all of May and June.
- The NFL cancelled all mini-camps and OTAs with the intention of starting training camp in late July.
- The NFL allowed teams to reopen their training facilities for limited personnel and players who are rehabbing on May 19th.
- The NFL allowed coaching staff to return to the team facilities on June 4th, if they so desired. Many coaching staffs, like the Cardinals’, have chosen to keep working remotely.
This carefully designed, 3 phase plan was in lock-step with the recommendations made by national medical experts—-with Roger Goodell receiving daily updates and recommendations from the CDC and the medical experts at Duke University.
Unfortunately for the NFL, the warnings from the CDC and national medical experts have been ignored by a number of national and state government officials—-and even worse, by American citizens who choose not to follow the social distancing and mask wearing protocols.
Many states, despite being advised otherwise, reopened too quickly and, as a predictable result are now dealing with dramatic rises in new COVID-19 infections. The three week national wave of Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s last breaths, have created another significant reason for the country to anticipate infection hikes. And now, the president appears insistent on holding a jam-packed rally in Tulsa, which very likely will ignore (as the president has done all along) the practices of social distancing and wearing masks.
Just this week, vice president Mike Pence wrote an op-ed that was published in the Wall Street Journal wherein he asserts that there will be “no second wave” of the virus.
Pence wrote: “In recent days, the media has taken to sounding the alarm bells over a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus infections. Such panic is overblown. Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and the courage and compassion of the American people, our public health system is far stronger than it was four months ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.”
Just yesterday, national health and pandemic expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the president hasn’t spoken to him in a couple of weeks and rebutted Mike Pence’s “no second wave” claim by stating, “we are still in the first wave of the virus.”
Fauci attributes the recent spikes in infections in states such as Arizona, Texas and Florida to people abandoning the recommended precautions of social distancing and wearing masks.
And thus—-the national chaos ensues—-alas, in some parts of the country, recklessly.
With a little over a month to go before the scheduled start of the NFL training camps, this 5 week interim could be critical in determining just how methodically the NFL should continue to proceed.
Roger Goodell’s said Monday night in light of a couple of NFL players recently testing positive for the virus that the NFL expects there to be a number of positive cases—-and that they are prepared to handle them, via 3 tests a week on every player and staff member—-and by quarantining any one who tests positive until they are symptom free.
During his interview with ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, Goodell said, “All of our medical experts indicated that as testing becomes more prevalent, we are going to have positive tests. The issue is, can we obviously prevent as many of those from happening, but in addition, treat them quickly, isolate them, and prevent them from impacting other personnel?”
More items from the Goodell interview:
- The NFL is currently monitoring the German soccer league to see how they are handling the virus. Thus far, the Bundesliga league is testing its players twice a week.
- Because NFL players are young and healthy, the league is confident that those who contract the virus will have strong and swift recoveries. The ones who have contracted the virus thus far have only suffered minor symptoms and have been relatively asymptomatic, according to Goodell.
- In response to some NFL coaches such as John Harbaugh who are expressing deep concerns as to how the testing and prevention protocols will be administered, Goodell said that the league will need to be as flexible as possible: “One of the things that we are all going to have to do … is adapt and change and do things that we might have thought were impossible several weeks ago,” Goodell said. (Note: Harbaugh was one of the most outspoken coaches against the NFL conducting its draft in April—-back when Goodell was advising the GMs and coaches to embrace flexibiity and adaptability).
- Goodell said, “The protocols are stringent. They are designed to be that because they are for the safety of our players and personnel, including coaches. We’ll evolve as the circumstances change. We will be changing our protocols appropriately.”
What changes are perhaps likely to occur? My guesses would be:
- Expanded rosters—-depth at every position will be of critical importance.
- Visor and face mask innovations for helmets which could provide added protection.
- Shortened pre-season games—-likely going from 4 games to 2. The league would revise the schedule and give each team one home and one away game and make the games geographically advantageous.
- Older coaches and staff workers could be advised to work only remotely from their homes.
- Expanded injured reserve lists, especially for the teams hit hardest by infections.
- Extended team stays at local hotels in secluded, designated sections of the hotels.
- No fan attendance at practices, either indoors or out.
- For the fans, affordable television access to games via pay per view (for out of town games) and/or modified versions of the Red Zone Channel and NFL Sunday Ticket.
- Fan participation at games—-many teams like the Broncos are working with computer programs that model practical social distancing requirements so that a percentage of fans will be able to attend the games.
What other changes or adaptations can you think of?
The NFL wants to keep giving America an emotional boost during this devastating time in the nation’s history, and eagerly wants to reward its fans by giving them something to look forward to on a weekly basis—-Roger Goodell knows that the NFL has become America’s bell cow in professional sports—-and he and the league want to do everything possible to keep their momentum surging—-by opting to stay well-informed and flexibly resolute.