Only a few months ago, the NFL said the coronavirus will not impact the season. Surely, with plenty of time to prepare, things will all blow over. The conoravirus has since blown through every single NFL plan like Michael Turner running over defensive backs, and has thrown wrenches in their plans like Michael Turner tossing Eric Weems into oncoming defenders.
The early March timeline has changed a lot, with the Annual League Meeting canceled, offseason workouts moved to virtual meetings, the NFL Draft festivities in Las Vegas canceled for a virtual draft, rookie minicamps moving virtual, two preseason games canceled (so far), and training camp only about three weeks away.
We have not heard much of the league’s actual plans. The clearest rumors, under two months from the start of the regular season, is that teams will follow local guidelines. What those mean, and if those will be safe for players, coaches, or fans is still undetermined.
The player association’s president, Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter, had some harsh words for the league and it could cost everyone the season.
As a preventative measure during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFLPA and NFL formed a Joint Committee of doctors, trainers and strength coaches to develop protocols designed to bring players up to full speed in a healthy way when they return. The NFL initially accepted and implemented the Joint Committee’s suggestions, including items like no joint practices and no fans at training camp. However, the NFL was unwilling to follow the Joint Committee’s recommendation of a 48-day training camp schedule. Despite these experts’ assessment that teams face a serious risk of player-injury spikes this year (based on past NFL data and recent findings from sports leagues that have already returned to play this year), the NFL is unwilling to prioritize player safety and believes that the virus will bend to football.
Tretter wrote on the NFLPA’s website likely because the NFL remains steadfastly dedicated to pretending things will not be impacted. Now he is forced to spread the NFLPA’s thoughts on a blog post to hopefully provide some player safety.
The league has yet to make any truly important decisions while the NBA, MLB, and US Soccer have dealt with expanding COVID-19 spread before a single game is even played.
Like so many sports leagues, and even nations, states, and people, the NFL is hoping to ignore the pandemic and hopes it will all goes away. None of those bets have paid off quite yet.
Tretter thinks the NFL is dedicated to ignoring everything.
Every decision this year that prioritizes normalcy over innovation, custom over science or even football over health, significantly reduces our chances of completing the full season.
Tretter has some intriguing points.
The NFL is clearly not following the expertise of medical professionals when fan participation will be based on whatever the local rules currently are. The initial problems with every other professional league in the United States guarantee the NFL cannot run unimpeded for 5+ months, not without risking the virus running rampant through the league.
The lack of any actual plans, outside of pretty solid testing, shows the NFL is not up to take on the challenge the coronavirus presents, at least as things stand today. The NFLPA agrees, and without the players on board, it’s going to be hard to approach anything like business as normal come September.