As the Covid-19 pandemic revs up for a third wave around the country, approaching an average of 200,000 new daily infections, we are seeing a corresponding rise in cases within the NFL community, most notably within the Baltimore Ravens organization, which has seen dozens of positive tests among players, coaches, and staff in the past week-plus.
This was far from the only Covid-19 situation going on around the league this week, and it went a lot further than the Denver Broncos, as well. According to the transaction lists, seventeen teams, which is more than half of the league, placed at least one player on the Reserve/Covid-19 List between Monday and Saturday.
Which is why it’s no surprise that the NFL is now beginning to have serious discussions about the possibility of adopting a ‘bubble’ format for the postseason, which is now just several weeks away from beginning.
The plan would simply consist of requiring that teams remain in their hotels during the postseason run, being permitted only to leave for the purposes of going to their facility to practice and to stadiums to play in games. It would also include strict enforcement about who would be permitted to interact with players during that time.
The NFL balked at playing the entire season in a local bubble format for all 32 teams, but cutting the number down to 14, for a shorter span of time, and with much higher stakes, makes it a much more palatable alternative to the current state of things, which, as mentioned, as seen more than half of the league’s teams experience at least one positive Covid-19 case among players just last week.
That includes every single team in the AFC North, most of the AFC South, half of the AFC East and West, and the NFC South, North, and NFC West. The only division that was unaffected by the virus over the past week were the NFC East, perhaps because the football gods had decided that they have enough to deal with as it is.
The full list of teams who placed at least one team on the Reserve/Covid-19 List last week, in case anyone is interested: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Miami, Buffalo, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Las Vegas, Denver, Minnesota, Chicago, Arizona, and San Francisco.
That’s just one week. To date, the Seattle Seahawks are the only team in the NFL since the regular season began to have had zero positive cases among players. Literally every single other team—all 31—has had at least one instance in which they have had to place a player on the Reserve/Covid-19 List.
With the situations only worsening both around the country and within the league itself, people are questioning whether or not they would even be able to complete an uninterrupted season without the use of this partial bubble approach. No decision has been reached yet, and the union would also have to sign off on it, but it’s an idea I’m glad they’re now seriously discussing.