The NFL is set to kick off its regular season on September 10th. While the NBA, MLB, and MLS have had to endure suspended or postponed seasons, football has had the luxury of time. However, that luxury is fading as the season gets closer and the COVID-19 pandemic presses on. Recently, the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to terms on major issues confirming that there'll be a season in 2020. But will those plans change soon?
Right now, the NFL is planning on playing on each team's home stadium (most likely with no fans in the stands). However, as news emerged about a COVID-19 outbreak within MLB's Miami Marlins, it might be time to reconsider playing in a bubble model just like the NBA and MLS.
In case you missed it, only three games into their season, reports emerged on the Marlins having 11 infected players out of the 33 that have been traveling with the team. As a result, Monday's game between the Marlins and Orioles has been postponed as well as the Phillies-Yankees matchup (the Phillies faced the Marlins last weekend). Days removed from opening day, Major League Baseball is holding an emergency meeting as they try to figure out what to do.
As Scott Van Pelt said so accurately on Twitter: “Who the hell knows?” It's difficult to play professional sports in 2020. It took less than a week for an MLB team to suffer an outbreak within their clubhouse. The season is literally just beginning. But there's another side to sports amidst the pandemic.
The NBA and MLS are going to play within a bubble in Orlando. Basketball is set to begin this week while soccer has already begun. MLS has released eight consecutive reports of zero positive cases from their host hotel.
There's no doubt that playing in a bubble model would be ideal for any sport. After all, there's more control over where the athletes are going and what contact they are having. There's still a risk, of course, but it's safer.
However, it's unfair to compare the size of football teams (including coaching staffs) to basketball and soccer. Think about it, a regular-season roster is made out of 53 players. How can you make a bubble work? Geoff Schwartz tweeted about how they traveled with five buses and that the number of people per team you'd have to “bubble” would exceed 200.
Also, it's worth noting that the NBA is close to ending its season and won't play a full regular season while the NFL will have to.
I believe we all understand the challenges of implementing a bubble for the NFL, especially when the season is less than two months away and players and owners have already agreed to play a season without a bubble.
But the NFL has to try. If it can't make it work in a bubble, they should consider creative alternatives like multiple bubbles per region as ESPN's Dan Orlovsky suggested on Twitter. Even if it seems like a very tough task, the NFL has to look at baseball as the only sport that's tried to come back without a bubble and realize:
1) It took three games for a team to have an outbreak in MLB.
2) Baseball is a sport with almost no contact.
3) Did we mention it took three games?
September 10th is the date for the NFL's 2020 kickoff. Right now, it's set to take place in Arrowhead Stadium. But the league has to take a look at the possibility of implementing a bubble even if it seems like it's too late.