Thursday marked yet another conference call by the NFLPA to hammer out the details of what the NFL season, and training camp, is going to look like. According to Dan Graziano, in order to help enforce protocols, the league is considering using fines against players who display “reckless” behavior away from the team facility with respect to spreading Covid-19.
While we still don’t know exactly how a locker room situation is going to work out, I think it goes without saying that any locker room setting, no matter how careful you try to be, will bear with it some heightened risk of spreading a contagious virus. You can go every other locker room, but people are bound to be near each other, and to talk.
There is nothing more crucial to a potential NFL season than making sure that players stay away from the coronavirus. Even if they are merely exposed to a positive case, they will be forced into quarantine to ensure that they do not become infected and thus capable of further spreading the virus undetected.
We have already seen examples of how this could happen even in a football setting, with some universities experiencing outbreaks, dozens of players having tested positive following behavior that might be considered reckless (or not—simply practicing in some cases).
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, an in-person district school meeting attended by principals from the region about how to reopen schools resulted in dozens of said principals either contracting Covid-19 or being forced to quarantine. This isn’t easy, or simple, folks.
The NFL would not be the only sporting league to institute penalties for reckless behavior related to the coronavirus. The PGA Tour, for example, also has mechanisms in place to punish those who do not abide by the agreed-upon rules, as a matter of personal responsibility.
This is all the more important, as the conference call also revealed that, unsurprisingly, players will not be staying together during training camp. They will simply report to the facility from their own homes, as they would do normally during the season.
Perhaps the threat of some type of discipline for reckless behavior could act as a deterrent for some athletes who might be otherwise willing to flout guidelines put in place for the greater interest of everybody with whom they would come in contact.
Needless to say, there is nothing finalized yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising if we see a penalty system put in place. I imagine that it wouldn’t be put into effect until after things actually get underway, though, so players who continue to work out with teammates on their own, against the recommendations of the NFL and NFLPA, are likely safe from any meaningful punishment outside of a sternly-worded admonition about how they shouldn’t do that.