The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.
As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion
Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will any team be made to forfeit a game at any point this season?
The NFL has been around for more than 100 years now. Throughout that century-plus of play, the league has never had a game forfeiture. There have been times—not since before World War II—in which a game was canceled, not to be made up, but never has the league intervened on behalf of one team and awarded them a victory and the other a loss without a game being played.
Now more than ever, however, the NFL has thrust that into the conversation, circulating a memo earlier this week that laid bare the message sent to all 32 teams, which is that any Covid-19 protocol violation found to have been due to negligence that causes a schedule disruption will be subject to harsh discipline, which could arise to the level of game forfeiture.
Now, it should go without saying that the league has no interest in taking this step if it can be avoided. Every game played is more money that goes into everybody’s pockets, including the players. If a game is not played, the players do not get paid for that game. And it is reflected in the following year’s salary cap as well in the loss of revenue.
I do not expect by any means that the NFL will take that step with the Tennessee Titans. However, if a similar situation arises later in the season, with the ample warnings and missives that have been sent, I think that puts it on the table as a realistic discussion.