Over the past few weeks, several professional sports leagues have either begun or resumed their seasons amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Some leagues, such as the NBA, NHL and WNBA, have conducted their seasons in a bubble and seen positive returns regarding negative tests. Major League Baseball began its season without a bubble on Thursday and has already seen one club experience a virus outbreak, leading to multiple cancellations and postponements of games leaguewide.
As the NFL is set to begin its ramp-up period for training camp, the league has plenty of health and safety protocols in place. However, the NFL -- like the MLB -- is not operating in a bubble-like format. With 80-man rosters for camp, doing so in a bubble would be extremely difficult.
Without being in a bubble, Washington head coach Ron Rivera believes every player must follow all the protocols in place in order for the NFL season to work.
"For us to have a successful showing of it, I think it comes down to being disciplined as a group and as an organization and as individuals," Rivera said in a Zoom conference with local media Tuesday. "You have to be disciplined to understand that you can’t go out and not follow the protocols. You have to wear a mask. You have to wash your hands. You have to properly distance yourself from one another."
Without operating in a bubble, Rivera stressed the importance of contact tracing in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
"My first question is, how did it happen?" Rivera said. "If you could figure out how that happened -- let’s say one guy went out somewhere where he shouldn’t have gone, grabbed a bite and didn’t have a mask on, we could find out what caused it and what the reason was for guys catching it. That, I think, would really help us as we venture further into this."
Over the past few days, multiple players across the league have chosen to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. This isn't unusual, as we've seen players opt out in every league that's returned thus far.
Washington defensive lineman Caleb Brantley, who was deemed high risk, has made the decision to opt out, too.
Rivera, who admitted he was concerned, said that society as a whole has struggled following safety precautions, which is why cases continue to rise nationwide. Other countries around the world have done a much better job of combatting the virus than America. In some, life has returned to almost normal.
"I’m concerned. That’s why the emphasis will be you know we’ve got to follow the protocols and be very diligent with them," Rivera said. "That’s the thing you know that we’re missing right now as a society is that we’re not very diligent, we’re not very strict and unfortunately, it’s still kind of ramped right now. I think as we understand more and more about this virus it seems that wearing a mask, washing your hands, socially distancing, trying to avoid large crowds, you know you give yourself a chance."
While he is concerned, the head coach did say he does feel more comfortable with the amount of testing the NFL is doing to help ensure player safety.
"We’re fortunate enough that we’re testing here, we’re testing a lot and so we’re getting results quickly. That’s the other thing that’s been beneficial for us so far, and hopefully we can continue to maintain that," Rivera said.
Rivera understands that what the NFL is attempting to do is unprecedented. But, if there is a massive breakout (similar to the one in Miami with the Marlins), the league has to consider halting the season.
"It’s hard to say what it would take to shut everything down, but I’d imagine if you had a mass breakout, you’re going to have some big questions," Rivera said. "We’ll have to see. In the meantime, we’ve got to make sure we’re following all the protocols that have been set forth by the CDC and by the NFL and NFLPA. We’ve got to be really careful with this and be smart."
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