Noontime’s Take: The NFL Has A Covid Problem

By Matt Noonan 

The headline of this blog post says it all: The National Football League (NFL) has a Covid-19 problem. And the league must do something about it sooner than later. 

Whether you agree or disagree, playing football during a pandemic comes with risks, and unfortunately, the NFL, which may have been blinded by this feeling from the get-go seems to believe they can operate at full-blast. But clearly, we – the fans of this league – are slowly realizing the NFL was never equipped nor ready to combat its biggest opponent of the 2020 season: Covid-19. 

For three weeks, the NFL seemed invisible. 48 games were played with no positive tests. But as we began to turn the page to the fourth week, things went in a different direction. 

Two teams – the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans – became the league’s epicenter for the virus while other squads have recently announced at least one – maybe two? – positive test results over the past few days. And due to an uptick in positive cases, the Patriots’ matchup on Monday with the Denver Broncos has been postponed (again!) to next Sunday, October 18. 

As of this morning, nothing has been said nor reported about Tuesday’s matchup between the Titans and Buffalo Bills, but I think if the league is going to move the Patriots-Broncos game to next weekend then they better reschedule this particular matchup, too. 

Sure, postponing or canceling games will throw a wrench into the current schedule, but if the NFL wants to continue its 101st season then they better consider some alternative plans that should begin with an emphasis on finding ways to keep its entire organization safe and healthy. 

The NFL in my opinion is more interested in playing games and keeping their partners and sponsors happy, but instead, they’re creating a chaotic environment with so much uncertainty and certainly a not of clarity. 

If I were Roger Goodell, who is the commissioner of the league, I would do the following to save the 2020 season: 

  • First, press the pause button on games this week and next week – we need to find a way to slow the spread of this virus. 
  • Second, call an emergency meeting between the owners and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) – we may also want to include/connect with our league’s stakeholders, partners, and sponsors, too, so we can alert them of our plan for returning to the field either later this month or at some point in November or December.
  • Third, it is time to adopt or re-think the “bubble” environment. And while establishing a “bubble” at this juncture of both the season and year may not be entirely feasible, perhaps the league could create regional bubbles where teams like the New England Patriots, New York JetsNew York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Philadelphia Eagles played each other twice. 

    Of course, creating a “regional bubble” would impact the current schedule, but if there is one thing I guess we’re learning from the college football world is that conference play seems to be working, and that might be the only way to salve the 2020 NFL season. 

These are just a few thoughts and ideas I have at this exact moment – of course, I am sure I could generate other thoughts, too, so please stand by! – but if there is one thing that seems to be working, especially in 2020, it is establishing a “bubble” environment. It has worked well for other sports and seems to be working for certain family members or friends of mine, so if the NFL really wants to play football then maybe it is time to create a “bubble” while putting the health and safety of every member of its organization at the top of the list.  

Like you, I want to see football played every Sunday, but as of this morning – and yes, the past few days, too – it just seems like the NFL has ignored this virus and thinks its business as usual. But unfortunately, 2020 is not business as usual, and we all know that. 

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