Buy Or Sell: In-Season Tweaking Of COVID-19 Return Protocols Unfair

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The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.

That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).

The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.

Topic Statement: Tweaking the return-to-play COVID-19 protocols midseason to make it easier is unfair and should not have been done, disadvantaging the teams affected by it in the past.

Explanation: The NFL yesterday announced that they were loosening the protocols that would allow vaccinated players to be able to return from the Reserve/COVID-19 List sooner, which previously required two negative COVID-19 tests and being symptom-free for 48 hours. Only two or three players were able to clear the protocols within a week. Well over 100 players have tested positive this week, including multiple outbreak clusters in team facilities, which has had the league scrambling.


Of course it’s unfair, but that’s never what the NFL was concerned about. Where their interest lies is putting out a product on the field that is going to maximize revenue. They thought that they could squeak by this season by incentivizing about 95 percent of players to get vaccinated, not counting on the Omicron variant helping to increase the dangers of in-facility spread that we’re now seeing.

Facing the prospect of multiple teams being unable to field large portions of their starting lineup, the NFL is trying to avoid having too many games in which the competition level is severely compromised; the timing is not a coincidence. Yet the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly wish they could have had that with Ben Roethlisberger and Minkah Fitzpatrick earlier in the year. They failed to win both of the games those players missed, and it’s reasonable to believe they may have won with them. That could be the difference between a postseason spot and a losing season.


Not only is it not unreasonable for the NFL to change the protocols midstream, it’s not even unfair for them to do it. The bottom line is that there has never been a point in time in which all 32 teams were not subject to the same protocols. Just because some teams had more issues prior to the changes than others doesn’t mean that it’s unfair to change them.

And it’s the right thing to do; there have been people advocating for making these changes, based on science, since before the season even started. For example, there is virtually no evidence to support the danger of in-game spreading of the virus. As long as you’re mitigating exposure, there’s no reason that the new protocols will compromise health and safety. But, again, all teams have always been subject to the same rules at the same time. It’s always been fair. And we’ve seen in-season adjustments before. Just ask James Harrison.

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