In each of the professional North American sports, owners and players are working to figure out just how to navigate their seasons amidst the global pandemic that has been raging in the US for several months.
The NBA and the NHL had to postpone games during their regular season, and they’d each typically be nearing the end of the playoffs right now. Major League Baseball was in spring training when the pandemic hit and forced them to postpone their opening day.
The NFL had to alter their draft format and haven’t been able to hold a practice this offseason, and theirs no guarantee that training camp, which would typically start in July, will begin on time.
On Sunday, the news came out that players from both the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans tested positive for COVID-19. Just as facilities were reopening around the league and testing will ramp up for teams across the NFL, other organizations will likely have players test positive for the virus as well.
Many states are beginning to see spiking numbers in positive cases and hospitalizations as a result of the virus, which will affect the NFL’s ability to start training camp on time. For the first time since the virus hit the United States, I have doubts that the season will begin on time.
Look across the country, and many states are seeing record highs. It may not lead to social distancing measures that took place in the initial wave of the viruses’ exposure, but it will have an impact on NFL teams being able to participate in practices. If training camp practices are unable to start on time, that will impact the preseason, likely leading to the cancellation of games.
If those practices are unable to start in a reasonable enough time to give the players time to prepare for the regular season, then regular-season games will be affected. The NFL prepared for the possibility that the NFL regular season is delayed by putting non-divisional games early in the season.
The Dallas Cowboys wouldn’t play a divisional game until week five, October 11, 2020, against the New York Giants. So, even if the regular-season schedule were delayed, the Cowboys would be able to play their six divisional games that will have the most significant impact on the NFC East and the NFC postseason.
These positive tests from the Cowboys and Texans don’t necessarily put the regular season in jeopardy. Still, if there are positive tests, there’s no telling how many NFL players have tested positive to this point. As teams begin to open their facilities and welcome players back, more tests will be conducted, and more positive tests will come.
Though young people with healthy immune systems aren’t as affected by the complications of COVID-19 as those who are older or immunocompromised, teams won’t willingly put their players, coaches, and front office personnel at risk if there are positive tests. Players will need to be quarantined upon positive tests, and there’s no telling how that would work in the regular season.
There is still so much that’s unknown about what is happening in our world, and the NFL looks like it’s going to be further impacted like the rest of the North American sports leagues. Major League Baseball is at a negotiation standstill. The NBA had a plan, but that seems to be falling apart. The NHL doesn’t sound like it’s going to get started any time soon.
While we want to be optimistic about the NFL resuming its offseason schedule or training camp on time, and starting the regular season with week one games, there’s still a lot for the league and their teams to figure out. Cases have spiked the last week in the United States, and if the positive cases and hospitalization rate doesn’t begin to decline, it’s hard to see how the NFL will be able to open their season on time.