The biggest challenge the National Football League will face this season is nothing like they have had to battle in previous years. This obstacle will not be a blown call. It won’t be an injury to a superstar. It may not even be a new rule for the league to abide by. Covid-19 is the opponent that the league is currently in no place to tackle. Training camps are just a month away. The league still has no set plan for teams to get back to work and prepare for the season. When the end of March rolled around, the country was forced to go into a lock down. The NBA and NHL were forced to close down operations in the middle of a season. Also, the MLB had to put Spring Training to a halt just weeks away from Opening Day. Everyone’s initial thought was that football was the one sport that would not be affected. Yet, here we are! We’re approaching July and this virus will most definitely have a negative effect on both college and professional football.
We know social distancing as the safest way to keep clear of the virus. NFL teams can bring in up to 90 players prior to the first wave of cuts to the roster during camp. It is literally impossible to keep these measures in place with all the team workouts, film sessions, and meetings that go into creating a winning culture at any level. Football is the ultimate contact sport. Ramping up and getting back to the basics requires a lot of on the field practicing as a unit as well as hands on training by the coaching staff. A lot of experts have pitched keeping teams spaced out at the facility and on the practice field by position. At first, it sounded simple. However, in order to fully executive the sport and playbook a full team must complete repetition after repetition as a group in order for their preparation to transfer to the playing field. Never mind the reality of some of these players trying to make the roster giving it 110% of effort. Will players on the bubble of a roster really be able to showcase what they can offer to a franchise while following these strict policies? Will coaches really be able to truly coach up their players while keeping a distance or sitting behind a camera?
What to Expect
Regardless of there being a plan in place or not, the NFL will give playing a season their best shot. Maybe, they can successfully get through camps with only a minimum of positive cases per roster. But, what is going to happen when teams start to travel? Also, don’t forget about the spike in Covid-19 cases that everyone’s expecting to come around this fall. All signs over the past week have been pointing toward no season. The 23 positive cases on the Clemson football roster basically has the answer written on the wall. The NCAA will not have a season. With the NFL being a billion dollar operation, they are going to do their best. In hindsight, playing football and everything that goes into the sport behind the scenes is the exact opposite of social distancing.
-Fred O’Brien @FOBSportsNFL