Dallas Cowboys fans are eager for training camp to get here, signaling the start of a new NFL season. It is a sentiment shared by supporters of all teams. We already know that there are going to have to be adjustments and precautions with COVID-19 still an issue throughout the nation. While plans and a start date still have to be finalized, the hope is that the full season and playoffs can be managed.
However, one medical authority on the pandemic recently voiced concerns to CNN that the current plans may not work.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “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.”
His mention of a bubble brings to mind the plans the NBA has for isolating teams and all their personnel in Orlando to play an abbreviated end for their current season. His concerns center around how hard the spread of the virus is to contain, and the more people and variables that are involved, the harder it becomes.
The NBA faces a very different situation. They have already eliminated teams from the season wrap-up. An NBA roster is only 15 people, with 13 active for games, where the NFL has 48 actives starting this year. Finding a facility with multiple football fields to use in close proximity is far more difficult than one with basketball courts.
All are about size, and logistically, a bubble for the NFL seems like a very hard problem to overcome.
The NFL is plunging into unknown waters here. They are still wrestling with what to do about live crowds, which will also be affected by each state’s regulations. Players obviously have to come into contact in one of the most contact of contact sports, so there have to be plans in place for the seemingly inevitable infections that will occur. The Cowboys have already seen it affect players. and just today we found out 13 University of Texas players have tested positive. On a personal level, players face a small but still frightening risk of permanent damage to their health or even death.
While the league is working on possible ways to handle things like increasing the size of the practice squad beyond the provisions in the new CBA, there is a real concern that a cluster of positive tests could easily cost a team games. If a group of starters come down with the virus, a team might have to field something that looks like they are going through the motions in a meaningless week 17 game, but with the results very much mattering.
Obviously, there are far more questions than answers right now. The worst case scenario is that we don’t see a season, whether it never gets off the ground or it is shutdown midway. No one wants to see it happen, but the possibility exists.
The NFL chief medical officer has responded to the comments from Dr. Fauci above.
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, responding to comments today from Dr. Anthony Fauci that it would be difficult to have a football season if players aren’t isolated in a bubble: pic.twitter.com/vghyou8HyK— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) June 18, 2020
No matter how it all turns out, things are likely to be rocky. This is a difficult topic to discuss, so if you wish to add your comments, please be respectful of other opinions.