By D. Westphalen
Different to other professional sports leagues, such as the NBA and the NHL, the NFL had some difficulties when preventing the spread the of the coronavirus. Between the 5th-14th of December, there were 45 new positives among players and staff, this compared to the 0 positive tests during the NBA restart a few months ago. The biggest underlying problem of the NFL is the number of players; there are 32 teams, with each consisting of 53 players, plus all the staff. This makes it hard for the NFL to create a bubble, similar to the one made by the NBA, as there is almost three times the number of personnel in the NFL.
Another big problem faced by the NFL is the schedule. Every team has one game every week with only one bye week the whole year, this makes it very hard to adjust and change games as most teams can’t have a game postponed more than once. The first time this problem was faced was with the Baltimore Ravens, whose game was pushed to a Wednesday afternoon a few months ago, after their star player QB Lamar Jackson was infected with COVID-19, this heavily affected them as they would go into the next game with a short week to practice and rest – a game in which they lost. Since then, this problem has been faced many times leaving teams with no time to adapt to the loss of a key player.
Not only has this affected the teams suffering with infected personnel, but it has also had a big effect on other teams, in which their games have been postponed due to problems with other teams. Players from the Pittsburgh Steelers were outraged by the fact that their Thanksgiving Day game was postponed as the other team’s quarterback had been infected with COVID-19, Steelers’ Wide Receiver Juju Smith-Schuster posted on twitter, “First the NFL takes away our bye week because another team can’t get their COVID situation together now they take away our Thanksgiving primetime game for the same reason. Smh.” Schuster was also addressing a game in Week 3 against the Tennessee Titans that had also been postponed, causing them to have their rest week 5 weeks earlier than anticipated, which isn't good for a team who hoped to have a long playoff run. Many other players from the Steelers have also addressed their discontent through tweets.
Despite having many problems, the achievements shouldn’t be overlooked, the NFL was able to run all of its operations almost normally and has helped maintain the sanity of many people. Earlier, in April the NFL quickly adapted its draft to being online, which had virtually no problems and the NFL has not cut down the number of games during the regular season, unlike the NBA and the NHL have done. Also, some teams, such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, amongst others, allowed a small percentage of fans to attend the stadiums and watch the games live, which deeply helped players feel a sense of normality again.