With the news coming down yesterday that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game against the Tennessee Titans would be postponed until later in the season, this is not a topic that is going to come up, but it could still come in play, at some point in time later this season, for some team.
Several dozen players chose to opt out of participation in the 2020 season due to concerns over Covid-19, whether it was for their own health or the health of their family. A number of those players had a medical opt-out. But what about if (or when) a team has to face an opponent in which there was an outbreak—and the game is still scheduled to be played within the known incubation period for the virus?
Had the Tennessee Titans not reported new Covid cases yesterday, for the third straight day, the NFL intended to continue on as planned by holding the game next week. Had they done so, the game technically would have been played with players on the field who were potentially exposed to the virus and were still within the incubation period, and could have played while able to spread the virus to other players.
If this situation arises later in the season for some team, whether it’s the Steelers or somebody else, what do players do? Would any of them consider withdrawing themselves from that game, particularly if they have some sort of vulnerability such as asthma?
That’s the question that Art Rooney II was asked earlier this week during his appearance on the DVE Morning Show. “I don’t really anticipate that on our team”, he said, adding, “ would be surprised if something like that happened, let’s put it that way”.
The Steelers, however, were just one of something like two or three teams who did not have any players opt out. Everybody else had at least one or two players choose to opt out, and certainly several dozens of others, perhaps hundreds of others, at least weighed it as an option.
“Obviously, there are a lot of players in the league, and I can’t speak for how somebody would look at a situation like this”, Rooney said. “But I think that our players have confidence in our medical staff and the whole system of protocols that have been put in place here”.
Would other players in other organizations be as confident? I would say that it’s ‘interesting to think about’, here, but for the fact that this very well may not end up being a hypothetical. We still don’t even know what happened in Tennessee that led to the outbreak, and can’t by any means rule out it occurring again somewhere else in the league.