Most people saw it as inevitable. Truth be told, I wasn’t one of them. While I knew it was a possibility, I still remained hopeful that the NFL would be able to get off the 2020 season without a hitch. That doesn’t mean no positive cases, but I was hopeful that they could avoid an interruption. Entering week four, we have our first glitch in the system with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ next opponent, the Tennessee Titans, experiencing a Covid-19 outbreak that currently consists of at least eight players and staff.
In response to these new positives, the league has shut down the facilities of Tennessee and Minnesota, the team that they played on Sunday, undergone contact tracing procedures to isolate and test anybody who came in contact with those who tested positive, and have also advised the officials who conducted that game to quarantine and informed them they would not be officiating this week.
The NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo out to all teams yesterday informing them of the steps taken, but also advised them to remember and the stress diligence in adhering to protocols. They have already fined five head coaches and their teams for not adhering to mask protocols on the sidelines. Several Las Vegas Raiders players were at a charity event on Monday without masks.
Email that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent today to all team Presidents and Executives: pic.twitter.com/7OB3s8XYJE
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 29, 2020
“These results confirm the need to remain diligent in implementing all of our health and safety protocols to the fullest extent”, Goodell wrote in the memo. “This includes not only our testing program, but facility maintenance, wearing of PPE by players and staff, and carefully regulating behavior and contacts outside of the club facility”.
“It is also critical to remind everyone in your organization—players and non-players—immediately to report any symptoms that they have, or that family members or others with whom they are in close contact they have, to your club physician or Infection Control Officer”, it continues.
Goodell also stresses that teams “revisit the steps they have taken to minimize the number of close contacts, particularly while traveling and within position groups, and should review their procedures for bringing in new players for tryouts and possible signing”.
The memo begins by noting that this outbreak occurring “is not unexpected”. All teams entered this season understanding that this was a possible outcome, and that it could potentially lead to some competitive balance concerns.
We are about to find out how quickly and how well the NFL can handle this situation, and whether or not they will be forced to postpone a game—something that is done only exceedingly rarely, usually in the event of extremely adverse weather conditions. You can’t play in an alternative venue to escape positive Covid-19 cases and the possibility that others who have not yet tested positive are already incubating the virus and are capable of transmitting it to others.