It’s hard to find a stance that won’t win you enemies, on seemingly any issue. Covid-19 is as contentious as any, whether it should be or not. Whether you think it’s an existential emergency or a massive overreaction; whether you think the best approach is to shut down until there is a vaccine-driven herd immunity built up or to favor efforts to revitalize the economy; people will hate you for your position and insist that you’re dead wrong.
We’re seeing a tug-of-war being played out a bit between sports leagues and their players unions as they argue over what should be done in terms of health and safety as well as compensation. The NFL is no different in this, as we have seen.
They have been more fortunate than most, of course, because they haven’t missed a scheduled game yet, and they don’t plan on missing any that aren’t exhibitions. Training camp still opens on July 28. The regular season is stick on track to be played. Covid-19 could still get in the way.
“There’s so much anxiety and worry about what’s next, to do the right thing because it varies from state to state”, said former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, speaking to Ed Bouchette of The Athletic. “Testing will be everything, making sure the fans feel comfortable and safe; more importantly, the players. Even if it doesn’t involve fans, maybe what we can do is be able to still see it on TV. But testing will come down to being everything as it comes to playing a season this year”.
Cowher, who also revealed that he and his wife had Covid-19 themselves, admitted that he doesn’t know if the league will manage to pull off the season. “The players have to feel comfortable with whatever they come up with from a testing standpoint, from a protocol standpoint”, he said. “It’s not like you can isolate yourself from everybody, particularly during a season that’s five months long”.
The NFL and NFLPA continue to discuss the final plans to be put in place for a player return to facilities, which is imminent in just a few weeks’ time. By then, teams will have to have set up their facilities to accommodate everyone working in the building to keep them as safe as can be reasonably expected.
And that’s before the players even get on the field. The good news is that it’s more difficult to transmit the virus outdoors than indoors, so as long as practices are held outside, that will be one mild advantage, but slamming into each other simply can’t be taken out of the game, which makes diligent testing and reporting of any symptoms critical.
What will also be critical is leaguewide adherence to whatever guidelines are put in place, including mandatory quarantines for any player who is exposed to the virus, no matter how important he is. If Patrick Mahomes has to miss a game because of it, the Chiefs have to bite that bullet.