The biggest point of controversy for the 2020 NFL season is not the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and possible rule changes in the coming years but instead the prospect of playing a contact sport during a global pandemic.
Simply put, we live in a different world right now, and some things that we were so used to must change, otherwise the consequences will outweigh the benefits. One of these things is the NFL season, and even with the proposed ideas, it may still be too risky to play at all this year.
The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, had this to say about the possibility of the NFL playing this season:
“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall. If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”
As you can see, there are two major issues immediately present. The first being, how do you keep upwards of 60 players per team and their staffs in complete isolation for over half of a year? Players will get tired of being in isolation, and will undoubtedly question if it’s worth playing at all. Also, daily testing would become quite a hassle on such a large scale.
The second issue comes from the possibility of a second wave, which is only increased by the continued reopening of the country. If a large portion of the United States sees a spike in cases, the NFL will definitely need to reconsider their plans, and could lead to a complete cancellation if the season is underway when a spike hits.
The very real prospect of entire teams being infected has not even been discussed yet. Purely from an NFL standpoint, what do you do if even one team gets sick? Do you reschedule their games? Cancel them? No one knows what the plan is yet. However, if even one team has an outbreak, it has the possibility of messing up an entire season.
Even before official team activities have started, there was already an outbreak affecting the Cowboys and Texans, namely, star running back Ezekiel Elliott. Some coaches have already expressed concerns, wanting the season delayed:
One NFL head coach described as “scary” that #Cowboys and #Texans players – including Ezekiel Elliott – tested positive for Coronavirus. Another HC told me league needs to delay start of the season. A third coach questioned wisdom of playing during a pandemic.
— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) June 15, 2020
Then, there is the human side of this issue. Many players, and coaches as seen above, especially those with families, may not feel comfortable risking themselves and their loved ones to play. The implications of a player or staff member getting seriously ill, or possibly dying from the disease, may create a domino effect that dissuades others from wanting to continue with the season.
The last of the major issues is, in a best case scenario, playing football with a mask, because covering your face will be detrimental to your play. It may become more difficult to breathe, leading to lower quality of play due to increased fatigue.
All in all, it may not be worth the risks to play football in the 2020 season. While it is controversial and disappointing to many, the NFL has long said that player safety comes first. The safest course of action may be a lengthy delay until next year, or a complete cancellation of the season.