If you’re concerned about the NFL being able to safely complete their season as scheduled, you’re not alone. After news of more COVID-19 cases on both the Titans and Patriots, we caught up with Pro Football Talk’s Chris Simms about how the pandemic has affected the league.
“I’m a little concerned, I am,” Simms said. “I’m a little concerned right now, because it seems like players and coaches just got a little relaxed. How could you not look at it any other way? Three weeks of games, everything kind of went smooth, everybody felt, ‘Oh, we’re getting tested every day, we’re good.’ And somewhere, somehow, some guys have gotten a little loose with that.
“So I am worried about that, and I am worried about where it goes. Of course we’re getting into flu season and colder weather, where we know these things can increase. I just worry about competitive advantages, competitive disadvantages and where that goes. Are we gonna have some teams play 16 games, and then another team play 14 games?”
To their credit, the NFL has postponed games when they needed to, preventing outbreaks between teams (that we know of). As of Thursday, there’s no evidence that the Titans spread COVID-19 to their last opponent, the Vikings. There’s also no evidence that the Patriots spread the virus to anyone on the Chiefs.
But with several games postponed already, it’s fair to wonder whether this is a minor blip, or a portender of more things to come.
“Ultimately, where I’m at with this conversation is, I think there’s only two ways we can get it done, for sure, 100%,” Simms said. “That’s one: create a bubble for each of the 32 teams… the second thing... is forfeit a game. I think that would be the same effect that the NFL could impose on some of these teams… You get the loss, you don’t play the game, so you don’t get paid that week. That’s kind of a double whammy. I promise you guys will start being a lot stricter.”
Simms mentioned his concern about competitive advantages and disadvantages, and having teams forfeit games presents some problems on that front as well. Will teams be awarded a free win just because they were the ones who happened to be scheduled against a forfeiting team? Do you only award a loss to the forfeiting team, while their opponent has 15 results on their record? It’s a murky situation that needs to be worked out, but Simms is right in saying that threats of forfeiture will most likely have teams clean up their acts quickly.
“To me one of those two things has to happen,” Simms said. “Or we’re going to be flirting with this danger on a weekly basis.”