It’s fair to say that not everyone is taking the COVID-19 virus all that seriously. The death toll has cleared 118,000 as of the time of publication for this article, with 2.15 million people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus nationwide, but states are in various stages of opening up or closing down restaurants, bars, public pools, and athletics.
Regardless of what’s going on in the country more broadly and the risks people seem all too comfortable taking, the NFL and NFLPA can hardly afford to laugh it off. If players are widely afflicted with the virus, the season is probably doomed. The league is already bracing for a big loss in revenue due to the likelihood that they won’t have fans in the stand, and the total loss of the season would obviously be undesirable for just about everyone with a stake in football this fall, financial or otherwise.
Against the backdrop of Ezekiel Elliott and other Cowboys and Texans being diagnosed with the virus, the NFLPA is putting together its protocols for the year ahead. It sounds like there will be a lot of testing, with players who test positive missing time.
In a call with agents today, NFLPA medical director Thom Mayer said the current plan is to test players for COVID-19 about 3 times a week, isolating those who test positive. Per Mayer, there’s a 90% chance reliable saliva testing is available before players return to facilities.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) June 15, 2020
This isn’t final just yet—DeMaurice Smith also told agents that the NFLPA was about 30 days away from figuring out all protocols, with the report date for training camp looming about 45 days away, per Pelissero—but it sounds like the foundation is being laid for extensive testing. We’ll find out what teams are doing to keep players from passing the virus around soon enough, too, but there’s only so much distancing you can do when your players need to practice against one another and ultimately tackle other players.
The reality is that players are going to come down with COVID-19. The league and the players’ association are going to do what they can to ensure those players get back on their feet and play once they’re afflicted, but the biggest priority is keeping the league humming. You should expect to see quite a few players miss time this year due to positive tests, and the NFL and the NFLPA will have to cross their fingers and hope it doesn’t become a majority of the league.