by: Pedro Ochoa

The Titans began the Saga and now the Panthers fall victim – is there a bubble coming?

This NFL season has really been the most exhausting season in history. Every morning brings fresh news of positive COVID-19 tests, amended protocols, schedule delays, and questions that bring even more questions. This pandemic, and all of the positive tests is not an easy task for the NFL to overcome. As of now, the NFL season is not on the brink of collapse–yet. The league has been discussing possible scenarios on how they can prevent a bigger outbreak, but as of now, the best they are doing is shutting down facilities when someone is feeling ill or has symptomes of the virus, which is not as efficient.

The past few weeks in the NFL has been very unusual, which is something usual for 2020. We are not only living history in 2020, but now living history when following the NFL. Every morning there is something new around the league that causes worry among NFL fanatics. 

COVID-19 not only changed the normality of everyone’s life, but also changed sports in ways that no one was able to imagine. The NBA had to put their season in a hiatus and had to finish their season in a bubble, while the MLB endured outbreaks once the season began, and now the outbreak in the NFL. 

The NFL was the last of the bunch to start their season. They were able to see what each league was doing and see what was working and what wasn’t. Even though the NFL was the only league to start on schedule and were able to see what works and what doesn’t regarding COVID-19, they are starting to have issues around the league that is worrying for the NFL and the players. 

The league started off on the right foot, going two weeks with no issues regarding COVID-19. Week three came along and there was a team outbreak within the Tennessee Titans that resulted in the postponement of the first game of the season which was against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This was an easy fix as the league gave the Titans and the Steelers a Week 4 bye, and brought the Ravens bye week from week 8 to week 7. 

Not even a week later, Cam Newton, from the Patriots, was tested positive for COVID-19, which caused him to be placed on the COVID-19 reserve list. The Patriots went on to play week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs. This was not a good idea as a couple of days later, there was an outbreak within the Patriots, which caused the league to postpone the Patriots week 5 game against the Denver Broncos. These two games have been the only games that have been postponed so far. 

The Titans however, decided to break protocols during the 10 days that their facility was closed. Several Titans went on to practice in private, which led to them possibly forfeiting their game in week 5 against the Buffalo Bills for not following directions. This game went on to be played on Tuesday October 13. This wasn’t a fun game to watch, as many players were taking the safe approach after not practicing for over a week. 

After this, the NFL decided to make more rules regarding COVID-19, from longer on-boarding processes for free-agent tryouts, banning of gatherings outside of the facilities, and implementing a league-wide video monitoring system to ensure compliance. The NFL teams are required to shut down facilities if there is a positive test around them, if someone has any sort of COVID-19  symptoms, and other scenarios where the the issue can turn into an outbreak. 

There have been many closed down facilities around the league for the past couple of weeks, including the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, and most recently the Carolina Panthers as they just got shut down earlier today. Shutdowns may unfortunately continue as the league tries to help stop the spread of the virus around the league.  

The NFL has known about this virus, as they have seen every league see what they did to help prevent an outbreak. An outbreak in the NFL will cause problems around the league that shouldn’t be there. There have been talks around the league on doing individual bubbles, or one huge bubble, but the realistically on this is very slim, as the players will be there for way too long without their family, or if having a huge bubble for the NFL is totally different when compared to the NBA’s bubble. The NFL will have to have more than 3000 people, while the NBA had around 800 to start. 

The importance of these protocols are to minimize the possibility of having another outbreak around the league. There have been countless scenarios where team facilities are closing down causing the teams to have less practice time which causes a disadvantage to teams in certain areas. As NFL fans, we should just hope for the best. We need to always remember that it’s the health of players that comes first, so if a hiatus to the season is what they need, then we have to be okay with it. I mean, it’s not like we have a say on what happens. 

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