NFL season begins and faces COVID-19 outbreak

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Woojune Kim, Managing Editor

On Sept. 10, the NFL kicked off its season with a match between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans. Many protocols were implemented to protect the league from the coronavirus, such as allowing players to opt out of the season and limiting fan attendance. Still, the dreaded outbreak occurred on Sept. 29, when three players and five staff members of the Tennessee Titans tested positive for COVID-19. Within the next four days, eight more members of the team tested positive, and their upcoming matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed. Another shocking incident occurred when Cam Newton, quarterback for the New England Patriots, tested positive on Oct. 3. The Patriots had no other positive tests, but their game was still rescheduled to the next day. These developments have put the protocols and teams’ diligence in adhering to the rules under scrutiny.

“I thought everything was going fine until I heard that the Titans had an outbreak,” said Sam Hong (10), avid football fan. “It shows that an outbreak can occur suddenly and teams can never be too careful. Hopefully it doesn’t spread and not many games will be canceled, but this should be a wake-up call for the rest of the league.”

The Titans’ COVID-19 outbreak presents the first major challenge of the year for the NFL. Early in the season, the league can postpone games without difficulty because most teams have a bye week, which is basically a week off. This year, postponed games will take place in those weeks so that schedules can remain largely unchanged. If teams run out of bye weeks, the NFL may be forced to delay the Super Bowl to prolong the regular season. Fans might also see more matches being played on Mondays or Tuesdays instead of Sundays, as games are put into jeopardy if players test positive throughout the week.

“I think the NFL’s current method of running their season requires strict adherence to the rules by players and staff involved,” said Tim Munro, varsity basketball coach. “It also requires that everyone is extremely cautious on their own time outside of football. For instance, one player who decides to go out clubbing could cause a disaster throughout one team’s clubhouse, so it’s vital that everyone understands how important it is to be safe at all times.”

Unlike other sports leagues, the NFL was in its offseason when the pandemic struck. During the summer, the NFL held its first virtual draft and carefully constructed its plan for the 2020 season. The first sign of trouble arose when BioReference, the company hired by the NFL to administer coronavirus tests, reported a sudden spike in positive COVID-19 tests on Aug. 22. Luckily, those tests were soon proven to be false results, but the league still added precautionary testing protocols to increase safety. Even though those measures failed to prevent an outbreak from happening, the NFL season can continue if other teams learn from the Titans’ incident and act responsibly.

“Obviously, the Titans’ outbreak makes it look bad, but the protocols were working and they just need to be followed more closely,” said Bryan Lee (10), football enthusiast. “We’ve seen other leagues manage to finish their seasons, so it’s definitely possible for the NFL. For the playoffs, the NBA has the bubble, which worked well. I think the MLB is also playing in a certain stadium for the playoffs, so I hope the NFL plays in one area as well.”