It’s only five weeks into the 2020 season, and the NFL has already had to rearrange and postpone several games due to no reason other than the fact that several teams have been dealing with Covid-19 positive cases. While the Tennessee Titans obviously have by far been the most prominent, the Raiders, Patriots, Falcons, and Chiefs have also so far had in-season player positives.
Each new event teaches us more and more—sometimes lessons we should have already learned. The league, for example, allowed players known to have been in close contact with Cam Newton to play just days after he tested positive, including Stephon Gilmore, who tested positive himself two days after playing against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
The NFL is trying to do everything it can to provide as little interruption to its schedule as possible. The best way to ensure this is for each team to cooperate as fully as possible with the agreed-upon protocols—and to go above and beyond, which is the message that the Pittsburgh Steelers have embraced.
“It’s not just me. It’s a bunch of guys that are bought in”, he told Mark Madden on 105.9 on Thursday. “When everybody had a chance to opt out, we knew right then and there that we would have to stay disciplined, and stay on each other, and be held accountable, and that way we could have a good season”.
“We have to understand that all it takes is one day for a guy to make a mistake that could cause the whole team a lot of turmoil, so we have to work together day in and day out to keep working to make sure that we put ourselves in the best situation possible”.
When the Steelers reported to training camp, four players were placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list, though only one player confirmed that he indeed was positive, that being Jaylen Samuels. James Washington, Justin Layne, and Arrion Springs, who was waived after coming off the list, were also placed on reserve, though it was never confirmed whether it was due to a positive test or suspicion of a close contact.
Pittsburgh was one of only a couple of teams that had no players whatsoever choose to opt out of the 2020 season. An agreement was reached that would allow players to take a $150,000 stipend and retain their current contract, which would toll, without penalty of employment, though they would have to pay that money back. There was also a $350,000 stipend for medical exemptions that did not have to be returned.
In the wake of the recent wave of positive cases, several such as Ben Roethlisberger and Vance McDonald have expressed their frustration with others seemingly screwing things up for the rest of those who are doing everything they can to ensure that the season is played safely and without interruption. Who can blame them, after all? So far nobody without a positive case has been more adversely affected.