As much as I’ve enjoyed watching the NFL season up to this point, I think it’s safe to say that it’s still an incredibly risky game the league is playing right now. I know, I sound like a major league Boomer saying that, but following the outbreak on the Tennessee Titans — which cost them their Week 4 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers — and a slew of other positive tests, like Cam Newton’s over the weekend, it seems like it’s only a matter of time till something really bad happens. Sadly, this virus doesn’t discriminate; even if that means sports fans get to watch football each weekend.
While the league has been able to avoid too much disaster in this uncertain and dysfunctional NFL season so far — a few positive tests and rescheduling of games isn’t all that bad, right? — its plan moving forward might leave some scratching their heads a bit. That’s because the NFL and NFLPA are against the idea of having an NFL bubble for now. The key words there: “For now.”
Prior to the weekend, there was talk that some NFL coaches were open to getting a bubble-like scenario for each team, keeping players isolated so not to put them at risk of contracting COVID-19. Unlike the NBA and NHL, though, the league and its players shutdown that idea, instead saying they’re waiting to see if another outbreak occurs. No, joke, that’s really the league’s plan for now.
Per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk:
All in all, the league got lucky last week. But instead of looking at what transpired and taking swift, decisive action aimed at avoiding further scenarios premised on luck being a lady tonight, the league seems to be intent on letting it ride.
There’s a sense in league circles that, for example, teams won’t be placed into hotels on a full-time basis unless and until another incident happens. But here’s the thing: There’s no unless; there’s only until.
There will be an incident. A team-by-team bubble is inevitable. So why not do it now, before something happens that requires a Week 18 or that otherwise scraps a game? Or that results in someone getting really sick, or worse?
The Titans outbreak might seem like an isolated incident right now, but, as Florio points out, it’s not if, but when another team experiences a similar outbreak of COVID-19. The latest report that the league isn’t seriously considering a bubble for teams to stay in during the rest of the NFL season seems inappropriate. It seems risky. It seems like the league’s just waiting for this to be worse instead of being proactive.
Serious question: What happens if an NFL player or coach experiences serious complications after contracting COVID-19 in the coming weeks, and needs to be hospitalized? What if, God forbid, somebody associated with the league dies from the disease? Now what if all of that could have at least been monitored by utilizing a bubble-like atmosphere to keep everybody safe?
We’ve seen people in the NFL already be a little loosey goosey with the rules — like head coaches and teams being fined for improperly wearing masks on sidelines — and, as much as the league is trying to punish these guys with threats of lost draft picks and such, the cavalier attitude is putting people at risk.
Look, the NBA bubble and NHL bubble worked. Both made sure players avoided the common distractions that could expose them to COVID-19. Having something similar for the rest of the NFL season seems like the right thing to do; especially because the concept has been proven. Sure, nobody wants to do it, but, just like playing without many fans in stadiums, it might be time to do it. Unfortunately, it might take more harm until we see it actually happening — and that’s a game of chicken the NFL should avoid playing given the severity of this virus.