As the Pfizer vaccine is rolled out to key workers and the most vulnerable across the US this week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said that the league will not use its influence or money to jump the line to receive the vaccine.
Goodell’s comments come after a season of Covid caused turmoil, in which players have opted out, games have been rearranged multiple times and teams have been decimated by injury and positive tests. With just two months to go until the Super Bowl and the NFL still experiencing Covid-19 problems, some expected the league to use their large resources and influence to ensure players and staff received the vaccine as soon as possible.
However, Goodell has now downplayed the prospect of any individual in the league being prioritized over more vulnerable groups.
“We are not planning on any of our personnel being vaccinated in advance of the Super Bowl,” Goodell was quoted by ESPN.
“That’s obviously being done at higher levels and given priority to obviously health care workers, first responders and those that are in the riskiest state. We don’t fall into those categories, so we don’t anticipate that and we’re not planning for that.”
Goodell spent Sunday watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat the Minnesota Vikings at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, the site of the upcoming Super Bowl. Like most venues around the league, the Raymond James Stadium has been operating at 25 per cent capacity on game days since October but Goodell said the league does not yet have a capacity in mind for the Super Bowl.
“We’re going to try to bring in as many fans as we can safely do into Raymond James Stadium,” Goodell said.
“I’m not sure there is a specific number that we are confident saying, ‘This is what it will be,’ but obviously our focus will be on keeping them safe, whoever’s in.”
Goodell also said that the league will continue to adapt as the season progresses.
The Indianapolis Colts have just had to adapt during the season as they reduce their home capacity ahead of Sunday’s home game against the Houston Texans. The Colts will allow 10,000 fans into the Lucas Oil Stadium this week, a reduction from the 12,500 that have been in attendance for the team’s previous four home games.
The move comes after a surge in Covid-19 cases across the state of Indiana, with the city of Indianapolis hit especially hard.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, our top priority has always been to protect the health and safety of our fans, players and staff,” Colts chief operating officer Pete Ward said in a statement on Monday.
“We have taken extraordinary steps to keep people safe in the stadium this year, and along with our partners at the health department, we believe this is right thing to do to help limit the spread of the virus in the greater community.”
Week 14 of the NFL season concluded with perhaps the most entertaining game of the campaign so far as the Baltimore Ravens narrowly defeated rivals the Cleveland Browns to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Both offenses were able to move the ball efficiently and there was late drama aplenty as the lead changed hands four times in the final seven minutes of the game. The action that has drawn the most attention, however, was the return of Lamar Jackson to the game after missing approximately half an hour due to cramping.
With Jackson in the locker rooms and the Ravens trailing with their third-choice quarterback struggling, things looked bleak for Baltimore and hopes of playing postseason football were quickly diminishing.
However, with the Ravens just one play from effectively having their season ended, Jackson ran back onto the pitch from the locker rooms and once again took control of his offense. Jackson utilized both his ability in the air and on the ground to drag his team from the jaws of defeat and complete a remarkable victory over their AFC North rivals.
“We were proceeding with Trace [McSorley], and there was no indication that Lamar [Jackson] was coming back at that point. I didn’t know he was on the sideline at that point. He’d been out there, but I give our trainers all the credit,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said during his post-match press conference.
“They did a great job of getting him back out there. They’re not going to come and tell me he’s back on the field; They’re going to tell me when he’s ready to go. So, he must’ve been getting close at that point. It was just the circumstances. With all the things that went on with this game, the timing like you’re talking about of that right there, if you wrote a movie about this, people wouldn’t believe it. They would say it could never happen. ‘Reality is stranger than fiction,’ or whatever that saying is. That’s kind of what it is here – it’s crazy.”