Patriots

Why Dr. Anthony Fauci's hypothetical NFL 'bubble' could be problematic

Why Dr. Anthony Fauci's hypothetical NFL 'bubble' could be problematic

If the NFL wants to have a 2020 season, it may have to follow the NBA's lead.

That's according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leader of the White House's coronavirus task force, who told CNN's Sanjay Gupta he's pessimistic about football proceeding as scheduled unless players and staff are in an isolated environment with rigorous COVID-19 testing.

"Unless players are essentially in a bubble -- insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day -- it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall," Fauci told Gupta. "If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year."

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That's obviously not what NFL or college football fans want to hear, and it led many to speculate about the NFL constructing a "bubble" similar to what the NBA will have when it hosts 22 teams at Orlando's Walt Disney World later this summer.

But should the NFL really go the bubble route?

Beyond the numerous complications of a football season in the bubble -- NFL rosters are nearly four times bigger than NBA rosters -- NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran believes playing the season under such a format would be a bad look for the league.

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"I think that the optics of it are absolutely reprehensible," Curran told host Gary Tanguay on Arbella Early Edition. "Look, the more you consider it, we have two leagues, the NBA and the NFL, which are predominately Black leagues.

"We're going to take those players in a non-essential business and sequester them, separate them from their families, restrict their movement, all for the entertainment of the masses? So we have the opportunity to enjoy ourselves and bet on the games and the billionaires don't go broke?"

Curran raises an issue that some NBA players are currently debating. Many players have been actively protesting racial injustice and police brutality in their communities following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black men and women by police officers. Some players are wondering whether it's appropriate to pause that activism to play in a self-contained environment for the entertainment of fans, all while leaving their family and friends behind.

The NFL has the benefit of time, as it can see how the NBA's "bubble" format unfolds in August before making a call on the 2020 season. NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills responded to Fauci's comments by saying the league will be "flexible and adaptable" to "adjust to the virus as needed," per ESPN.com.

But football is a much different sport, and the higher rate of injury could give players another reason to balk at putting their livelihoods on the line this fall.

Patriots' Dont'a Hightower used Super Bowl LI to support fiancée during labor

Patriots' Dont'a Hightower used Super Bowl LI to support fiancée during labor

The greatest comeback in Super Bowl history is three and a half years old, but it certainly isn't forgotten.

Just ask Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who brought up New England's miraculous Super Bowl LI victory over the Atlanta Falcons while his fiancée, Morgan Hart, was delivering their baby. Seriously.

Hightower told The Boston Globe's Stan Grossfeld he started chanting "28-3, 28-3" and "Never give up" while Hart entered her 17th hour of labor with their first child last month.

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Apparently the motivational tactic worked, as Hart said Hightower's words helped her push through and deliver their baby boy, Grayson, on July 16.

"It was surreal," Hart told Grossfeld. “It was a long night and a long day, and he kept reminding me, ‘28-3, 28-3,′ meaning you can be behind and come back. Never, never give up."

That's a reference to the deficit New England faced in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI before rallying to win in overtime -- thanks in large part to Hightower's strip sack of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan early in the fourth quarter.

Hightower still uses the 28-3 reference "all the time," per Grossfeld, but his focus won't be on football in 2020. The 30-year-old linebacker is one of eight Patriots players who have decided to opt out of the 2020 season.

"Not knowing too much about the COVID thing, I don’t want to jeopardize the health of my family," Hightower told Grossfeld. "I understand you can still catch it by going to the grocery store, but I’m not going to put my family’s health at risk for money.

"It’s family first. I want to take all the opportunity that I can to be a great father."

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Donald Trump says he'd ask Patriots' Bill Belichick for military advice

Donald Trump says he'd ask Patriots' Bill Belichick for military advice

You wouldn't seek out a military general for tips on NFL roster building, but Donald Trump apparently believes there's some transferrable wisdom between the battlefield and gridiron.

During an interview Tuesday on The Hugh Hewitt Show, President Trump was asked whether he believes Bill Belichick has a better chance of winning a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots this year than Tom Brady does with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Trump responded with a diplomatic answer -- that included some eye-opening praise for Belichick.

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"I think they’re both going to do great. They’re both friends of mine," Trump told Hewitt. "I’ll tell you, Belichick is an incredible coach, and I think he’s going to do really well. This guy just knows how to win. And he’s a very good friend of mine. He’s a winner.

"You know, if I ever had a military battle, I’d call up Belichick and say, 'What do you think? ... Give me a couple of ideas.' And he'd be as good as any general out there."

Belichick is a master strategist who relies on knowledge, adaptability and thorough preparation to put the Patriots in the best position to succeed. Those are all qualities of a successful military general, and perhaps Belichick could have been one in another life.

Alas, Belichick is a football coach with zero military credentials (aside from his father coaching at Navy), so we're not sure he's the best person to call about battle strategy.

Trump has touted his friendship with Belichick and Brady over the years, reading a letter of support from the Patriots coach on the eve of his election in 2016 and bringing up the former Patriots quarterback in various public appearances.

The President clearly still enjoys referencing both Patriots icons, even if his understanding of Belichick's talents is a bit off.