Once COVID-19 began spreading in the United States and cases began to rise, many businesses closed for the health and safety of everyone. Sports have been postponed since mid-March. The NBA canceled all games indefinitely after learning that Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz contracted the novel coronavirus. The MLB halted Spring Training and postponed Opening Day until further notice. Both basketball and baseball have missed much of their seasons due to the virus. However, the NFL has the benefit of time since they don’t need to begin practices or meetings until late summer.
Several NFL players from the Dallas Cowboys (namely Ezekiel Elliott), Houston Texans, and San Francisco 49ers have tested positive for COVID-19. Any player who contracts the virus has to self-quarantine for at least 14 days. This is true even for players like Elliott who are not exhibiting symptoms. The NFL isn’t surprised their players have positive cases, and they are still planning to start the season on time. Virtual off-season preparations will begin on June 26th. Then, the hope is to start training camps in mid to late July. Week 1 is set for September 10th. Leading up to training camps, the NFL’s top medical director advised players to refrain from practicing in-person until further notice. The goal is to have players as healthy as possible come September.
NFL Coronavirus: How the League Can Proceed With the 2020 Season
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the NFL will be lucky if the 2020 season happens. He recommends a bubble situation, similar to how the NBA is coming back with all players staying in Orlando. Fauci says, “Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall. If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.” While the league is taking Fauci’s recommendations into consideration, they expect to start the 2020 season as planned with some precautions.
NFL COVID-19 Precautions
For example, when players are not on the field, they can social distance and wear masks. They can choose single-use cups for Gatorade and water. The real difficulty will be following any type of social distancing while playing. When players are talking in the huddle or tackling one another, staying six feet apart is not an option.
Thom Mayer, the NFL Players Association’s medical director, along with NFL engineers and Oakley, “are working together to make prototypes that could be used for the 2020 season,” according to Shanna McCarriston of CBS Sports. They have not yet come to an official decision regarding the N95 and face mask combo. However, due to the continuing threat of contracting the virus, the league will have to agree on an amended face mask and helmet.
Assuming there is a 2020 NFL season, coaches will be crossing their fingers and praying that star players don’t contract the virus. Self-isolating for 14 days would mean missing at least two games. What if this happens leading up to crucial, must-win games or even the playoffs? If a single player tests positive, then any person they came into close contact with will also need to be tested. This includes fellow players and those on opposing teams. So, if the NFL comes back, the 2020 season will look much different than any other year. Players could have newly designed face masks. The league could adopt the “bubble” plan. Regardless of the precautions they choose, more positive coronavirus cases seem inevitable.