If the NFL wants to continue safely, there must be stronger protocols

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Dylan Grausz, Staff Writer

The pandemic rages on. 

COVID-19 cases are rising again in states across the nation, yet the NFL has returned right on schedule — albeit without a preseason.

The reality of trying to keep the show going during the pandemic is becoming blatantly obvious as cases continue to rise among teams. 

Back in March when the pandemic started, many people started to question whether a contact sport such as football could be played. Despite the skepticism, commissioner Roger Goodell was determined to start the season on time like everything was normal. Since football is a sport that requires close proximity and players are always breathing on each other, people started to believe that coronavirus would get out of control among the NFL and the season would fall into jeopardy.

After cancelling the preseason to minimize traveling and the implementation of proper safety protocols, including an opt out clause for players, the season got underway in September. 

The amount of positive tests was low compared to the amount of players and personnel tested, but there were still a handful of players that tested positive before the season.

Everything was smooth sailing once the season started. The amount of positive tests was still significantly under 1% despite all the traveling teams were doing.

From Aug. 16 until the end of August, “41 players have come off the reserve/COVID-19 list, and only seven have gone on it,” Toronto Sun writer, John Kryk said.

However, as the season has progressed, there have been some difficulties. 

The Tennessee Titans have a reported 22 total positive cases within their organization between players and staff since their first positive test was reported on Sept. 24. This caused their week four game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to be postponed. 

Since their facility was closed down, they were not allowed to practice; however, a later investigation revealed that a group of players gathered for a workout at a local high school during that week which was a root cause for further positive cases. 

The outbreak among the Titans shows that the season cannot go on if the proper safety measures aren’t followed. 

The NBA, for example, has finished their season in a bubble in Orlando where only players, staff, and close family members may come inside. This eliminates the risk of travel, and since all the players are staying in one place all the time, they are not at a high risk of getting infected.

New England Patriots stars Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore also tested positive raising the question of how the season can continue without a bubble. 

The reality is, it can’t.

Allowing players to wander freely without any monitoring and letting them spend their bye week in their home cities is not going to prevent them from getting sick, and it won’t save the season.

The only way that the NFL season can be completed safely is to implement the bubble, keeping them away from exposure so they can play as soon as possible.