Is the NFL on the verge of a crisis point? It’s certainly beginning to feel that way. The league has already postponed one game this week to later on in the season. As of this writing, one additional game has been moved back by at least one day.
Since the end of week three, four different teams have experienced Covid-19 positives among their players, obviously including the Tennessee Titans, who continue to have new players and staff members test positive as the total number begins to head toward 20.
The league has already made the call to postpone this game until week seven, but at this point they can’t even safely assure that the Titans will be able to play in week four. Meanwhile, after Cam Newton tested positive for the New England Patriots, the NFL is crossing its fingers hoping no more positives come about.
They are hoping that the Patriots can face the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday or Tuesday; however, the Cardinal also have a player, a practice squad quarterback named Jordan Ta’amu, who tested positive. Truth be told, it would be impossible to play this game next week and be free from the potential incubation period during which other players could have contracted the virus before drawing a positive test.
Last night, news broke that New Orleans Saints fullback Michael Burton has tested positive. Burton traveled with the team to face the Detroit Lions, a game that, by the way, is scheduled to take place at 1 PM EST today—at least as of the time that I’m writing this, at two in the morning.
Edit: To state the obvious, which was already stated, this article was written last night. Shortly before its scheduled publication, it was announced that Burton was retested and came out negative, indicating that he triggered a false positive. This is the risk run when writing articles in advance: sometimes the news changes on you and makes you look bad.
What is the NFL to do? The league has been historically reactive rather than proactive, and it’s beginning to become quite apparent that they did not entirely use their head start wisely. They now have four teams, or 12.5% of the league, dealing with an in-season player Covid-19 positive (or multiple positives) that, with any proper medical guidance, would force a number of individuals to self-isolate.
Last week, the NFL allowed the Atlanta Falcons to play their game (some good that did for them, considering they’re 0-3) despite having cornerback A.J. Terrell test positive for Covid-19 in a move that was announced the day before the game.
Apparently, the protocol under such circumstances dictates that an individual much test negative (duh), show no symptoms (duh), and have not spent 15 minutes consecutively or more within six feet of an infected person in order not to have his game status compromised.
Considering the other Covid-19 outbreak in the news right now, I’m not sure how this protocol is deemed sufficient. And it’s becoming readily apparent that the league is going to have to take this more seriously if they hope to finish the season—in whatever form that might take.
According to a late-night Tweet by Mike Florio, there has been some talk among coaches about potentially pressing pause on the season, shortening it to 12 games, and creating bubbles for each individual team, requiring them to stay in hotels for the duration of the season.
The NFL got a lucky break with the Falcons and Terrell in that it led to no further infections, but we’ve already seen in Tennessee how it can happen quickly. If they risk the same scenario with the Saints or the Patriots, they might not be as lucky, and then they’re have a disaster—public relations and otherwise—on their hands.