As a fan who really wants to see the NFL this year—and as a football blogger who really, really wants to see the NFL this year—it can be daunting to just consider how many issues remain outstanding between the league and the NFLPA as we sit here on Thursday in the middle of July, with training camps supposed to begin opening in a short amount of time.
It seems each day we get the same update, which is some variation of ‘we still don’t have any answers’. While that isn’t entirely true—there are some things that have been reportedly resolved, at least in principle—there are still some huge issues out there that could possibly threaten to derail the 2020 season before the NFL can even attempt to get it up and running.
Earlier today, I talked about how the union has been insistent upon making sure that the NFL is willing to consider a positive case for Covid-19 as a football injury, rather than a non-football issue, because in the case of the latter, the team would not be responsible for guaranteeing a player’s pay.
Another major concern is more local, concerning the teams who would be asked to play in areas of the country or are experiencing surges in cases. It’s staggering to think that in some regions, more than a quarter of Covid-19 tests are coming back positive, with, for example, Florida adding over 100,000 cases over the past 10 days alone.
With over 70,000 cases and roughly another 1000 dead, yesterday’s numbers are another reminder that things are not getting better. And that’s more true in some areas than others. Both Texas and Florida reported over 10,000 new cases yesterday. These states host the Cowboys, the Texans, the Dolphins, the Buccaneers, and the Jaguars, and in some cases, the specific areas where these teams play and/or train are current hot spots. California had just under 10,000 cases as well, while Arizona has been averaging about 3000 per day.
An NFLPA source spoke to the Washington Post recently, saying, “we have one question that encapsulates it all: does it make sense for the NFL to open up training camps in ‘hot spot’ cities right now?’”.
And it’s a fair question. One the NFL hasn’t provided an answer to. Will they be forced to consider relocating some teams for this season, just so that they can play? One important question that must be answered is how they preserve an equal playing field, if some teams more than others are having their operations threatened by a worsening outbreak.
A good portion of the league’s teams play in states in which cases have been spiking for days, even weeks. Tennessee, Louisiana, and North Carolina are among the other areas that have been hard-hit, with cases threatening to rise in others like Ohio. Their seven-day average of 1308 new infections is the highest the state has seen.