The NFL takes the coronavirus seriously. Are the teams? Why the Titans’ COVID-19 outbreak was a wake-up call


The Tennessee Titans’ COVID-19 outbreak is not the end of the 2020 NFL season. This is the start of the most important part of it.This week’s developments shock only those who have settled comfortably into the familiar rhythms of the football season and have forgotten the potentially impossible circumstances in which it is played out. The NFL knew it was coming – a week in which the coronavirus infected one of their teams to the point where they had to consider postponing a game. He knows it will happen again. The NFL is not responsible for whether and in what order its games are played this season. The virus is. Thus, the league will adjust its best, even if the solutions are not perfect or universally satisfactory.

But equity issues aren’t as worrisome as existential issues, which is why this week must be a wake-up call – a reminder to those who may have forgotten what’s going on around the world than it did. there is no way to protect the world. -insular NFL of it. As good as training camp and the first few weeks of the season have gone, now is not the time to relax, and it is not coming anytime soon.

“Our job is just not done. It’s about staying vigilant, ”NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in an interview Thursday on CNN. “But I’m happy with what has been done, I’m happy with the protocols that have been put in place, and we’ll find out exactly what happened. ”

Much more important than the postponement of the Week 4 game between the Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers is that the NFL and NFLPA remain on top of the epidemic in Tennessee. The league released a memo Thursday reminding teams, “There’s one simple rule to remember: pretend everyone you come into contact with has a COVID infection and take the proper protocols.” The memo sets new rules for teams, like the Titans, which have Outbreaks, or the Minnesota Vikings, who come into contact with teams that have Outbreaks. These include among others increased requirements for tests, masks and gloves during training and virtual meetings only.

They continue to test Titans players and staff daily, isolate those who have tested positive – five players and six staff have tested positive this week – and trace their close contacts to try to monitor and prevent further news. spread. They continue to test the players and staff of the Vikings, who faced the Titans on Sunday. So far, no one has tested positive in Minnesota, and if this continues for a day or two, the league can start to feel confident that it hasn’t passed from team to team for a match.

But the NFL and NFLPA must find out how the virus entered the Titans’ building. They have to make sure that everyone else in the league knows what they are finding out. They need to take some sort of disciplinary action if – and! – they find out that it was the result of someone’s negligence. And while they’re at it, they might want to do something about the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Raiders are under league investigation for letting an unauthorized individual enter their locker room after a game. Coach Jon Gruden was fined $ 100,000 and the team $ 250,000 for Gruden’s insufficient use of the league-mandated face cover on the sideline during a game. (Four other coaches and teams were also fined for the same offenses.) And then this week, a video of Raiders players attending an indoor charity event and mingling and posing for photos with guests without wearing of masks appeared.

Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr can give any press conference they want on how they “did a good job” and they “weren’t trying to be reckless and reckless”, but the actions are more eloquent than words. The Raiders’ actions aren’t those of a team that takes this thing seriously, and the fact that they’re flying under the radar isn’t a good thing for the NFL’s chances of playing a full season.

What Carr, Jason Witten, Darren Waller, and the other Raiders who were at this event did was incredibly stupid. Coronavirus protocols negotiated between the NFL and NFLPA allow the team (but not the league) to fine them. What makes their actions even dumber is that these same protocols allow their team, if they contract COVID-19 as a result of participating in a banned event (this one violated state and local regulations, and the country club that housed him was fined by the state), to classify their illness as a non-football-related injury. If a player is on the non-football injury list, his team does not have to pay him.

Hope this is not the case. Hopefully the Raiders reckless stupidity chickens don’t come home to roost. But until we see five to seven days of negative testing in Vegas, we have to count this week’s Buffalo Bills-Raiders game as potentially in jeopardy with the Vikings-Houston Texans. If a Titans player transmitted the virus to a Vikings player during last week’s game, or if an unmasked guest at Waller’s charity event passed it on to an unmasked Raider, then we might consider three matches postponed this week instead of just one.

“I don’t mean that’s what it is, but that’s why the plan was put in place to have guys, to be prepared and why so many people… are diligent and don’t go out and are reckless and careful, ”Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Wednesday. “I teach my children at home. We don’t have any guests at home. You have to do these things if you want to play the games on Sunday. “

That’s when the NFL has been trying to get home – and get its coaches back – for the past few months. This is all a keg of powder. I heard Carr stand there and say ‘we had a few moments where we got out of hand’, and all that tells me is the guy doesn’t understand or doesn’t care. A The moment you get it wrong is enough time to let the virus in. Major League Baseball discovered this during a Miami Marlins outbreak in August that infected 18 players and threw several teams’ schedules into chaos for weeks.

There are people in our society who don’t buy any of this – who think the virus is a hoax or overkill. So it stands to reason that there will be people in the NFL who think the same way. Surely there are players, coaches and front-office people who roll their eyes at the protocols and constant reminders that they have to follow them. And no matter how seriously someone takes the virus, everyone wishes they could snap their fingers and get back to normal. But the NFL’s position, based on a mountain of advice from the medical community, is that it can’t. The league has worked hard to ensure that its players, coaches and other staff act in a manner that respects this position. Coaches who don’t wear masks during games will continue to be fined, and this week the league told them they could also find themselves suspended or suspended in the draft if the fines don’t work. If that doesn’t grab their attention, it’s hard to imagine what will.

So yes, the NFL and the NFLPA will investigate what happened in Tennessee. If the result of this investigation is the discovery of a hole in the testing and tracing protocols, they will endeavor to correct it. Does that mean testing every morning, currently the only day of the week the NFL doesn’t test? It could. Does that mean the next time a coach’s test comes back positive on a Saturday morning, like Titans linebacker coach Shane Bowen did last week, that his close contacts can’t either? board the plane? At least we have to think about it. The situation is unprecedented, which means COVID protocols must be malleable.

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Adam Schefter reports that there were two more positive tests from the Titans, including one player, which led the NFL to postpone Tennessee’s game against Pittsburgh.

But as reliable and effective as the protocols have been at identifying cases and limiting the spread, there is no way to make them 100% effective. There will be more cases. There will be more epidemics, facility closures, game postponements. It’s inevitable. The key to being successful this NFL season is the behavior of the people on the court. The ability of players, coaches and team staff to make the personal sacrifices necessary to keep the virus as far away as possible. And if players and coaches start to let their guard down, the NFL needs to loudly, publicly, and vigorously ensure that it is put back in place.

We won’t know if the NFL can finish this season until they do. External challenges are and will remain important. They might prove to be impossible to overcome. But failure to eliminate internal challenges will only make things more difficult. This week reminded us that these do exist and must be kept to a minimum for this football season to be successful.


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