I don’t know if this was inevitable or if somebody just screwed up. Either way, the NFL has joined the list of businesses with some decisions to make. Only three weeks into the season and despite all of the precautions that were put in place across the league, the Tennessee Titans reported an outbreak of the novel coronavirus among their ranks. The list of those infected includes both players and supporting staff. The Titans have shut down “all in-person operations” for the time being, as have the Minnesota Vikings who they played this week. The question now is if they can move forward with the regular season. And if not, what happens to the rest of the league? (NBC News)
Three players and five staffers with the Tennessee Titans tested positive for coronavirus, forcing two NFL teams off the practice field on Tuesday, the league and players union announced.
Both the Titans and Minnesota Vikings, who played host this past Sunday in Minneapolis, “will suspend in-person club activities starting today,” according to the joint statement.
The Vikings said that, as of Tuesday morning, it had received no positive tests results for anyone with their club.
How it happened will likely remain a mystery. The Vikings had previously announced that there would be no fans allowed at their first two home games, including the one against the Titans. Tennessee had similarly announced that their stadium would be empty for home games in the month of September.
As of this moment, Pittsburgh is being told to be ready for their trip to Tennessee this weekend “until informed otherwise.” How the league reacts to this news over the rest of the week should give us some idea of whether or not there will be a full season. The reality is that people get injured or sick all the time in the NFL and some of them miss some games. If the Titans have three players in quarantine, that’s why they have a bench of second-string players. But since we’re talking about the plague everyone is predictably freaking out.
Now, however, we have two teams that are not practicing in preparation for week four. The Steelers aren’t being kept off the practice field, so doesn’t that give them an unfair advantage? I realize that the league has always prided itself on its “monsters of the midway” reputation and the teams are expected to just suck it up and soldier on. But there’s only so much of this that can go on before the season begins to have an asterisk next to it in the record books.
One thing that’s been exposed here is the fact that the league doesn’t have any firm metrics in place in terms of how they’re handling the COVID-19 situation. When Roger Goodell’s office was asked, they said that there is no firm number of positive cases that would trigger a game cancellation. It kind of sounds as if they’re leaving it up to the teams to make those decisions. But what happens if that magical trigger point is reached? Does that mean that some teams could end up taking automatic losses and others would essentially get an extra bye week and a free win? That doesn’t seem very fair to everyone else. The only other option would be to reschedule the games for later in the year, but the normal bye weeks have already been canceled. I’m not understanding how they manage this unless they just stretch the season out further than they already have.
If the NFL has too many teams go down with outbreaks of the virus they will eventually just have to cancel the season. And that will mean that all of the time and money put into putting on the big show will have been wasted and we’ll have a year without a Super Bowl. That’s never happened since the league was organized in its current form. I’m not sure how I feel about this quite yet. But given the way the Jets have been playing thus far, perhaps it’s for the best. (Sorry… not sorry.)