Sports Business Writer
It was a matter of when, not if, the COVID-19 global pandemic would impact the NFL world. Before the season began, the league made the executive decision to continue with the season amidst the pandemic. All games would either be played in front of little or no fans- some stadiums have allowed around a 16% capacity, mostly depending on local restrictions. All personnel on the sidelines were required to wear masks and COVID-19 tests were administered to everyone associated with the NFL on a weekly basis. We all knew there would be these complications with holding the season during the ongoing pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic has been ruled a “Global Health Emergency” since early March. The virus has infected over 7,000,000 people in the US— 213,000 of those have unfortunately been fatal.
For the first couple weeks, everything was going just as planned. The NFL had an almost perfect negative test rate and it seemed like the league was doing a great job of managing the safety of its players. That was until New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for COVID after their Week 3 game against the Las Vegas Raiders. Even though the quarterback of the team tested positive for COVID, the rest of the team did not. This left a difficult decision for the NFL and the league ultimately decided to let the team play their Week 4 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs only a day later than expected (moved from Sunday night to Monday night).
In addition to Cam Newton of the New England Patriots, the Tennessee Titans have also experienced some complications due to the ongoing virus. On Tuesday, September 29, three players and five staff members for the Titans tested positive for the virus. In response to this, their Week 4 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed and the Titans were given a bye during Week 4, For Week 5, their matchup versus the Buffalo Bills will be held on Tuesday, October 13th. In addition, the Patriot’s Week 5 matchup against the Denver Broncos was rescheduled to Monday, October 12th. However, new positive tests from the Patriots roster have forced the league to postpone this game another full week. As things currently stand these two teams will finally face off on October 18th, as long as no new positives are registered, and the league feels the teams can successfully play.
Along with the second delay of the Patriots and Broncos game, the league announced that six other games were being adjusted to make sure the league can still accommodate the full slate of games. For example, since the Broncos are now playing the Patriots next week, their original game for that week against the Miami Dolphins has been moved further into the season, landing on Week 11. The original game the Broncos had on the schedule for Week 11, against the Chargers, now moves to Week 8. The trickle-down impact goes on from there, but the league was able to make sure all teams have room for all of their scheduled games this season. The Patriots and Broncos now have a bye week this week.
In total, over a third of the league’s teams have had schedule changes due to the virus. This is no small impact, however many around the league will be happy to know that the teams will all play a full 16 game schedule as long as no further changes must be made.
Melvin Gordon of the Broncos expressed displeasure on Twitter about the sudden bye week his team has been given, echoing the sentiment Vance McDonald, tight end for the Pittsburgh Steelers, had when his team ran into the same situation last week. Players and coaches across the league must remain flexible this season, but the frustration is understandable when a team spends a full week practicing only to feel they wasted their time with no game being played to cap that week.
The NFL released a statement on Thursday saying, “These scheduling decisions were made to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts.” The league is trying their very best to mitigate the risk of infection across the league, and for the most part they are doing okay, but situations like this that make us all wonder if the decision for a 2020-2021 NFL season was made too hastily.
Contact Michael at email@example.com