Every time there is a significant Covid-19 event within the NFL, league surrogates such as Dr. Allen Sills begin to do the media rounds. Time and time again, they are asked if this or that strategy has been discussed, such as placing teams in hotels to simulate a bubble environment, or even putting a pause on the season to get a handle on things. Every time, the answer comes back that nothing is off the table, but as of yet, they haven’t picked anything up, either.
Even as the league announced late last week that it would be requiring all team facilities to shut down on Monday and Tuesday—except for teams who must play on those days—in an effort to try to help curb the potential spread of the virus after players, coaches, and staff gathered with their families for Thanksgiving, and as multiple significant Covid-19 events are going on around the league, the NFL has reportedly not even discussed pausing week 12.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens were supposed to play on Thanksgiving night. That game has already been postponed twice, first to Sunday and then to Tuesday, and as of the time of this writing, it’s not even a sure thing that it will be played on Tuesday, as both teams continue to generate positive cases.
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos are set to play a game without a proper quarterback, and the San Francisco 49ers were just informed that they will not be permitted to practice or play in their facilities due to local guidelines. While teams have contingencies in place for such occasions, it’s simply another phase of the upheaval the game is experiencing right now.
And that’s disregarding the fact that several other teams have had new positive cases this week, information that in almost any other week would be a headline story, but which at this point, or at least in this of all weeks, has become expected, and accepted, as the inevitability.
It’s striking that the league recognizes the dangers of comingling at this time, as exhibited in their decision to shut down facilities on Monday and Tuesday, which plausibly demonstrates their awareness that there is also heightened danger in playing games today. Of course, there are a lot of risks the league is willing to take to get games played, even if some backfire.
So, the league is not postponing the whole week—it hasn’t even been discussed—even as the real possibility exists that the Steelers-Ravens game does get postponed, which would force a week 18 anyway.
Should they hit the pause button on this week, given all of the factors involved—chiefly, their awareness that this week, because of Thanksgiving gatherings, makes it a particularly dangerous time? It’s quite possible that there will be more players on the field today who in the next couple of days test positive than in any other week of the season, which greatly increases the odds of gameday transmission.