The NFL and NFLPA met extensively yesterday (virtually of course) to discuss the pertinent issues surrounding the league today. Needless to say, one of the central topics concerned the league’s protocols for return to play, and how teams would manage their facilities and their players to mitigate the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
According to Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer, a fundamental part of that plan will be a “very ambitious” testing program, though there were not further details revealed about what that would look like. He also warned that it does not eliminate risk.
“Testing alone is not going to be sufficient to keep everyone healthy”, he acknowledged. “This is all about risk reduction. We know we can’t eliminate risk”.
With NFL teams set to begin reporting to training camp a little over a month from now, time is ticking with regards to getting everything in place (and, I might add, it’s becoming increasingly more sensible that the league chose to prevent teams from carrying out training camp at off-site locations as they try to maintain multiple facilities).
Nobody likes the situation that we’re in. Nobody likes to live with restrictions. Every football fan in the world would be disappointed if there were no NFL season this year, I think should go without saying. But this is not a situation that has anything to do with what people want.
It’s rather about what is reasonable, and we ultimately have to decide whether it’s reasonable, once we have some guidelines in place, and take stock of the national landscape, to conduct a football season under those circumstances. And the players have to decide for themselves whether or not it’s reasonable for them to take that risk, and thus also potentially put their families at risk along the way.
There should hopefully be something concrete about what the league’s plans are perhaps next week concerning how to navigate this season, with respect to health and safety protocols. Up to this point, we have been primarily working from leaked reports of meetings.
So what would a “very ambitious’ testing program look like? Melanie Friedlander would be much more fit to answer that question than me, but I’m willing to guess that means players are going to be tested more than once a week.
Taking into consideration the probability that there are teams who have had players or other employees test positive for the coronavirus that have not been reported, we can wager that over half the league has been directly affected by the coronavirus in some form or fashion. They should all understand the significance of the situation.