Whenever training camp opens, the NFL is sure of one thing: there will be a number of positive Covid-19 tests. It’s happened in every other league that has begun to bring players back and have them tested. It’s happened all throughout college campuses. We already know about probably a couple dozen NFL players already who have had it.
The New Orleans Saints’ head coach, Sean Payton, was the first that we heard about. Von Miller, the All-Pro pass rusher for the Denver Broncos, had it as well. Ezekiel Elliott, yet another top talent. Most recently, Michael Bidwell, the owner of the Arizona Cardinals, was hospitalized because of the coronavirus.
“We absolutely expect that, and I think that’s just reflective of the fact that this disease remains endemic in our society”, said Dr. Allen Sills, who is the NFL’s chief medical officer. This is something that the league has acknowledged all along, Roger Goodell even saying this months ago.
“You don’t want anyone who is infected to come into that team environment”, he added. “That is an absolutely crucial screening for us to try to start off with a very healthy environment, and also make sure we can give the appropriate treatment and care for those individuals who may be affected and not be aware. But I think we all anticipate that there will be those cases, and we’ve been very clear of that throughout”.
In every other major team sport that has gotten underway, teams have had to shut down practices and their facilities for a period of time because of positive tests. In the MLS, gearing up for a tournament to precede the restarting of their season, two teams had to be removed from participation because they had so many cases.
““It’s not the same, but it’s analogous to all of the work the NHL and NBA are doing as they try to create these protected environments: Identify the people that may have infection or have exposure, and stop them from coming into the club. I think it’s really, really important”, said Dr. Dev Anderson, who has been consulting a number of leagues about how to handle the situation.
This is why the NFL has, for example, worked to limit contact as much as possible outside of the actual playing of the game, including the banning of exchanging jerseys after the game. While that is not a finalized and approved protocol yet, it has been derided as ineffective, given that players will have been smacking into one another over the prior three hours.
The long and short of it is that the NFL knows it will have a Covid-19 problem, or maybe 32 of them, on every team. The question is how best to handle it to make sure that it’s contained and doesn’t actually affect the season.