Maybe tap the brakes for a month, NFL? Wouldn’t that make sense? A little “discretion is the better part of valor” being exercised?
Knock everything back 30 days. The start of training camp, Week 1, all of it. If you need to lose some games to get the Super Bowl in on time, lose some games. If you want to push into early March, you can do that too.
Deciding to put off a decision isn't necessarily indecision. Sometimes it's smart.
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Right now, you’re scrambling. You pulled it off with free agency and the draft. Good. Great. But don’t mistake success holding virtual events as an indicator that you’re the outlier American sport that’s got it all figured out. You don’t. And all non-Mahomes headlines this week have shown that.
We have a financial skirmish.
We have a preseason skirmish.
We have a size of roster skirmish.
We have a skirmish over face shields.
We have a mess of players that live and train in states that are in the grip of the virus the way Massachusetts was in April and May. And those players are going to be relocating to their respective cities all over the country.
The proposed date for rookies to report? July 19. Ten days away. Which means — if they’re smart — they’re arriving in their new towns by this weekend, limiting contacts and getting ready for their tests. And a few will come back positive, which will surprise the players but shouldn’t since, as Dr. Anthony Fauci and others have been saying for months, as much as 50 percent of cases can be asymptomatic.
And while the likelihood any player would even need hospitalization is infinitesimally small, there’s a whole boatload of people the young, vibrant and healthy are going to be in close contact with who are not so young, vibrant and healthy.
The Patriots have coaches on their staff who’ve battled cancer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, a 67-year-old cancer survivor, said on Monday, “The players, they’re going to all get sick, that’s for sure. It’s just a matter of how sick they get.”
Players will be going home to spouses, girlfriends and kids and inevitably some of them are going to have conditions which put them at greater risk than the average person if they contract COVID-19.
Can those players simply opt out of the season? Well, according to NFLPA Vice President Sam Acho, the league is trying to prevent that.
“The league is very hesitant to have any player opt out,” Acho said on SIRIUS XM NFL Radio. “Their position is if the player doesn’t want to go to training camp, well that’s their decision. Obviously, fines could take player and you could lose your starting spot, all those things could take place.”
Which, to me, is an insane stance. If a guy doesn’t want to play, passively threatening, cajoling or bribing him into playing is an absurd idea.
Not that the NFLPA is flawless in its logic either.
NFLPA President J.C. Tretter of the Browns took issue with the number of preseason games.
“The NFL has recently stated it wants to play two preseason games,” Tretter wrote. “When we asked for a medical reason to play games that don’t count in the standings during an ongoing pandemic, the NFL failed to provide one. The league did provide a football reason, though — to evaluate rosters. The NFL also stated that it was important to stage preseason games to check how our game protocols will work.”
There’s no medical reason to play any games, J.C., whether they count or not, pandemic or not. Playing football is the wrong thing to do medically. Period. Has been since the country tried to ban it last century.
But if it’s going to be played — and it will be — being able to judge participants in a game setting is kind of a baseline ask.
Players, coaches, agents and executives I’ve been in contact with as the season looms have a default answer to almost everything: “Dunno.”
Nobody in their right mind is asking for guarantees that there are no cases. Nobody in their right mind should need the entirety of the season mapped out through the Super Bowl.
But with the proposed start of camp barely two weeks away, not enough is pinned down. Actually, it seems like almost nothing is. It’s nobody’s fault. Standing down isn’t an admission of failure.
Committing to getting it right rather than committing to getting it going would actually be a show of strength, decisiveness and leadership. Never a bad time for that.