NFL Not Currently Planning For Bubble, Will Rely On Testing
The NFL has "no immediate plans to shift to a bubble concept" in response to the Marlins' positive tests, according to Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com. NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills said that the league instead "will continue to focus on quick and efficient handling of positive tests as part of what the league now refers to as a 'virtual football bubble.'" Sills said, "We've said all along that we expected there would be positive cases among players and personnel. And there may be a number on each team. As long as this virus is endemic in society, we're going to continue to see new cases." He added, "What we think is important is that we have protocols in place that can identify those cases as quickly as possible, and make sure that once we identify them, we take the right action, which is to isolate the individual away from the team, get them the appropriate treatment and then do the contact tracing" (ESPN.com, 7/27). Sills "declined to specify how many positive cases would lead to the NFL shutting down a team, canceling a game or ceasing leaguewide operations entirely" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/28).
PRESSING ON: Like MLB, the NFL has eschewed the bubble concept and intends on flying teams around the country to play in each others' stadiums, and to allow players to come and go from team facilities. That’s the weakness in the NFL’s hopes of staying on track, said one AFC club executive, who worries about player behavior when they’re not at work. "We can’t live their lives for them. They have to be a part of it,” the exec said. This same person also said he and others around the NFL are watching closely for how MLB adjusts its season. On the other hand, an executive from an NFC club downplayed the Marlins news, saying football’s schedule of having each team play one game per week is an asset (Ben Fischer, SBJ Unpacks). An anonymous NFL team exec reacting to yesterday's news said, "The knee-jerk is, 'Sports are doomed because the Marlins had an outbreak.' If that was the case, we should have never started. The real case is, can you figure out whether it’s safe to move on from here, how it affects other teams, and is it just a season of attrition?” (L.A. TIMES, 7/28).
GOODELL'S LETTER: The AP reports NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to fans "outlining the league's plans to play during the coronavirus pandemic." Goodell wrote, "COVID-19 will continue to present a major challenge to nearly every area of American life. Football is no exception." He added, "Safety continues to be our first priority. The letter continued, "Players and coaches will be tested for the virus regularly, including every day for a while. Preseason games have been canceled. Everyone in the team environment must follow rigorous health and safety protocols to keep themselves and each other safe. When there is a positive test, strict regulations will be enforced to isolate and care for that individual and to contain the virus before it spreads" (AP, 7/28).
BURSTING BUBBLE? In N.Y., Steve Serby writes there is "big trouble" with the NFL's non-bubble plan (N.Y. POST, 7/28). NBC SPORTS CHICAGO's JJ Stankevitz writes, "The United States is not ready for bubble-less sports to return. So why is the NFL trying?” (NBCSPORTS.com, 7/27). In Chicago, Brad Biggs writes, "My biggest question is whether teams can stop an outbreak from seriously hindering their operations at various points this season" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/28). Also in Chicago, Patrick Finley: "The NFL won’t have the luxury of isolating itself the way [the NHL and NBA] have. Rather, the NFL will have to do what MLB attempted: contain the virus while still letting players go home -- and to grocery stores, gas stations and, short of league-mandated stay-aways, anywhere else" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/28). The Chicago DAILY HERALD's Hub Akrush: "As much as we all want this to work, after seeing what's going on in baseball, played at much greater distance with little or no contact, it's awfully hard to believe the NFL can pull this off." Akrush: "The question is not whether players, coaches and staff will get sick. Some will. What no one is announcing yet is how many will be too many and where is the line in the sand?" (Chicago DAILY HERALD, 7/28).