3 Keys To A NFL Season Unlike Any Other
We are 10 long days from kicking off what will undoubtedly be the most unique NFL season in our league’s 100-year history. I can tell you that there were several moments during the summer where I was not confident that we would have a season at all. But given our commitment to science, unwavering position on health and safety, and flexibility to adjust, we are nearly there.
From August 12-20, there were a total of 58,397 COVID tests conducted on both players and staff members across the NFL. There were zero positive tests among players and just six among other personnel. That data is a testament to the protocols jointly developed and the effort made by every person who steps into each team’s facility to make good choices.
This data point should only be celebrated for diligence up to this point; we must remain vigilant to avoid getting lax with protocol enforcement. We have seen other sports experience setbacks and outbreaks, in part because they stopped prioritizing the safety measures put into place. Our collective efforts cannot stop until we complete a full season.
You’ve probably heard two keys words used to describe COVID-19: novel and emerging. That means, this is a new strain of coronavirus; and because of that fact, new information and guidelines will continue to roll in requiring continuous updates to our protocols and recommendations. None of us have the full picture right now, but I’m pleased with the protocols we implemented for training camp.
In the spirit of adaptability, expect the NFLPA to push for modifications or updated recommendations -- such as the continuation of daily testing -- as the season progresses and new information becomes available. We will continue to rely on scientific data to inform our approach for combatting this virus. As the science evolves, we will evolve with it.
As time draws on, all players, coaches, staff members, media personnel, their family members, and anyone else coming into contact with the NFL will need to remain focused on the following three priorities:
We will beat this virus by eliminating its ability to transmit to other people, and that comes through mitigation. There is no way to eliminate all risk in the game of football. Eventually, we will be on the football field, unable to physically distance and unable to wear masks. But what we can do is mitigate when we are not on the field.
Every time we can limit our potential exposures, we take an incremental step toward creating a safer environment. During training camp, there is very little free time away from the facility, but as our schedules transition for the regular season, we must all recognize that every interaction with a person outside of the football team poses a risk to getting to game day.
2. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
For some players, COVID-19 has hit close to home through the loss of family members and loved ones. For others, no one in their circle has been impacted, or if they have contracted the virus, they experienced mild symptoms.
My top concern has been introducing and enforcing protocols to reduce the risk of transmission at work as much as possible. NFL teams did their part to create safer workplaces, but the responsibility now lies on the shoulders of every player, coach, staff member, executive and owner.
The pandemic has created a situation where the actions of a single person can affect the health and livelihood of thousands. In a time when the impact of each individual’s actions extend beyond themselves, following (or exceeding) protocols and CDC guidelines is not just for the benefit of you and your family, but for your teammates, your coaches, the teams’ staff, their families and the community at large.
As we’ve all learned, time won’t stop the spread of this virus. We must each assume responsibility for the health of our locker rooms. It is not an exaggeration to say that one person’s actions can shut our whole league down, so follow all the guidelines and wear a mask.
3. SMALL SACRIFICES FOR THE GREATER GOOD
Speaking of masks, I know they can be hot and distracting. Standing at least six feet apart during a conversation feels unnatural. Ordering takeout instead of enjoying a nice night out isn’t as fun. There are countless examples of small trade-offs we are asking every person in football (and their families) to make so we can have a season. Inconvenient as they may feel, they are worthwhile measures to keep everyone as safe as possible.
There should be no debate: wearing masks and social distancing are effective tools in stopping the spread of COVID-19. The healthier everyone in the NFL community stays, the higher the likelihood a full season can take place.
At this point in time, we have found a way to open back up while prioritizing everyone’s safety. Many industries are still struggling with balancing the economic need to resume business operations with the understandable concern for safety. So far, we’ve learned that economics and safety don’t need to be mutually exclusive. If you prioritize the safety of all involved, then you can bring people back together.
I think it’s safe to say that we all eagerly await a return of group gatherings when we no longer need masks or social distancing. As players, we also long for a return to our previous norms. We miss hanging out together in the locker room, breaking bread in the cafeteria and we will certainly miss our fans in packed stadiums on game day.
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we wish our reality today looked a bit different. The sooner we stop fighting each other and instead frame the virus as our common enemy, the closer we’ll get to the sense of normalcy that we all miss.