The Problem with Covid-19 Containment in the NFL

The NFL is heading into Week 6 of its season this weekend, and we have already seen massive shakeups. Many fans (and even some players) are in doubt about if this season will finish on time and if it even should have started to begin with. Consistent positive Covid-19 tests along with a massive outbreak have many people rightfully concerned.

The success of the bubbles in sports like basketball and hockey made many fans feel that this is the ideal option to play sports in the middle of this pandemic. Baseball did not follow this bubble format in the regular season and saw multiple outbreaks with dozens of games being postponed into doubleheaders. Covid-19 was eventually contained within baseball, but not without a massive sacrifice in scheduling for multiple teams. As the 2020 NFL season approached, many fans were wondering if they would follow the successful bubble protocols.

Surprise, they didn’t.

The lack of concern amongst some players was made obvious before the season even began. While doing a podcast with GMFB host Kyle Brandt, Kirk Cousins’ attitude around wearing a mask was “If I die, I die.” This clearly had many people frustrated and upset. This careless attitude could lead to infecting his teammates, and overall just seems selfish to say as a father of young children.

Having the season’s schedule function the way it was planned with players and personnel traveling across the country for games, infection was inevitable. Many teams have seen isolated cases of few players and/or coaching staff testing positive for Covid-19, therefore shifting around their schedules. The Chicago Bears had a practice squad player test positive, the Chiefs also had a practice squad player test positive along with a member of their staff, the Patriots had Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore test positive. These infections along with multiple others are definitely reasons for concern.

The first (and hopefully last) massive outbreak of the season came from the Tennessee Titans, who had over 20 positive tests. This outbreak started with eight positive tests from Tennessee after their game with the Minnesota Vikings in week 3. The Vikings thankfully had no positive tests, but the Titans had a long way to go. The Titans had five straight days following these initial tests of positive results until October 5th, giving them their first negative in almost a week. This along with negative tests on October 6th made it seem that this outbreak was on its way to being contained. The Titans week 4 matchup against the Steelers was already postponed within this time frame, and the hope was that this would be their only postponement. Then on October 7th, they received another positive test result. With this result, a story surfaced that Titans players held a workout away from their facility.

This led to the NFL throwing the hammer down on any related future actions across the league. This postponed yet another Titans matchup, which led to a domino effect of schedule shakeups across the league.

The most recent outbreak is happening within the Atlanta Falcons, who are already facing turmoil within their coaching and front office. The Falcons got their first positive result on Tuesday, October 13th. As of when this is being written, the Atlanta Falcons have 4 positive Covid-19 tests. They have shut down their facility and are currently working remotely.

Many saw this outbreak as practically inevitable and many fear that this will not be the only one. The NFL has yet to fully contain all 32 teams, and they may not see that at all this season giving the contact and collision and close contact within this sport. What many find very disheartening is the lack of concern among players and coaches when it comes to something as simple as wearing masks and following protocols. Hopefully, this continues to improve as the season progresses and if it doesn’t, we may not see the season end in the way we want.

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