JESSICA COLEMAN- STAFF WRITER
The National Football League is dealing with the repercussions of its inability to implement an effective plan to combat the spread of the coronavirus among players and staff throughout the league.
Some spectators, players and staff earlier this year thought the NFL would construct a bubble-like environment, similar to the one brilliantly cultivated by the National Basketball Association. The success of the NBA bubble was astonishing. Following the arrival of 22 teams to Orlando, Florida, only two players tested positive for COVID-19. The NBA implemented a 100-page safety plan to ensure the health and wellbeing of players and staff throughout their stay at the bubble. Unfortunately, the NFL is not experiencing the same success.
The NFL administers COVID-19 tests to players and other essential employees daily except on game day. Since players do not receive tests on game day, they are not permitted access to team facilities on the day after the game. The only two exceptions include the need for medical attention or if the team is operating on a short week.
With daily testing and strict guidelines, many were optimistic that the 2020 NFL season would go uninterrupted. However, the fact is, daily testing does not prevent the spread of the virus before detection. No players tested positive for the coronavirus within the first two weeks of play. However, in Week 4 things took a turn for the worse, beginning with the Tennessee Titans.
A total of 23 players and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since September 24. The Titans and Steelers game that was scheduled for October 4 was postponed until October 24. Also, the Titans’ game scheduled for October against the Buffa- lo Bills was moved to October 13.
Several players and staff members across the league are frustrated with the Titans’ decision to not follow protocols. Ultimately, the postponement of games is not just affecting the Titans but their opponents as well.
“Of course, we got the short end of the stick,” Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said in a news conference.
The positive COVID-19 tests are causing shifts throughout the league. The New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs matchup was postponed from Sunday to Monday in Week 4 as a result of positive COVID-19 tests from both teams. The rescheduling created a rarity of two matchups for “Monday Night Football.”
In efforts to control and deescalate the current predicament the league faces, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 clubs last Monday regarding COVID-19 protocol compliance. The memo introduced new measures for increased safety and repercussions if they are not followed.
“Protocol violations that result in the virus spread requiring adjustments to the schedule or otherwise impacting other teams will result in additional financial and competitive discipline, including the adjustment or loss of draft choices or even the forfeit of a game,” Goodell said in the memo, obtained by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
In the environment in which the NFL is operating, it is unrealistic to expect the league to eliminate positive tests. Yet if teams do not follow protocols and guidelines, the number of positive tests could increase, and more teams could have their seasons affected.