Throughout the unpredictable 2020 NFL season the league has maintained an “all options on the table” mentality in terms of how they will continue out the rest of the season safely as the world continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic.
Chief medical adviser Allen Sills recently spoke at a media conference, claiming that the league never seriously considered a bubble approach for the regular season, however, the playoffs are a different story, and after seeing how successful the NBA was at playing out the rest of their season in a bubble with no Covid-19 cases appearing, the option is looking more and more attractive.
The NFL is set to hold its Week 8 conference later this month where bubble concepts, and other options for how to carry out the playoff season, will be discussed more seriously. Despite a few outbreaks of Covid-19 in the beginning of the pandemic the NFL otherwise hasn’t needed to implement any aggressive measures in terms of game play due to the fact that they’ve been very diligent in securing team facilities and safe travel arrangements with strict protocols for all parties involved in the regular season. These protocols involve daily testing, contact tracing, and other standard practices we’ve seen working within the past eight months.
The latest league-wide testing results showed that there were eight new positive tests among the 2,459 players, and 11 new positive cases among the 5,340 coaches and other staffers tested. These sort of spikes are why the bubble approach to the playoff season is being discussed more now as the road to the Superbowl gets closer and closer.
The NBA, WNBA, NHL, and now MLB have all instituted the use of bubbles to carry out their seasons and all leagues have shown massively successful results with this approach, hence the NFL’s peaked curiosity. Saints coach Sean Payton was one of the first individuals working in the league to bring up a bubble approach months ago, and he has only further pushed for this as the pandemic has progressed.
“Teams are going to demand that they get bubbles of their own, and it won’t be a ‘soft’ quarantine. It’ll be a hard bubble. Man, nobody’s going to miss the Super Bowl because of COVID.”
Pre-pandemic it wasn’t unheard of for teams to isolate themselves at hotels before home games, so the idea of a playoff bubble would just be a more intensified extension of that plan. The main concern is moving from local bubbles in the beginning portion of the season to larger ones that will need to exist to accommodate for the playoffs. Sills recently discussed with the press why the bubble strategy hasn’t been considered more seriously in the past.
“The bubble doesn’t take away the need for all of our other mitigation strategies. In fact, infection can spread more rapidly inside a bubble if it does get introduced, because everyone is together in very close quarters.”
Sills continued on that one of the only things the NFL has learned from other experiences this season is that non-player staff and personnel also need to have their own accommodations and bubbles to remove all elements of risk. The NFL Players Association will likely be voting on what the next steps for the season will be later this month. Experts are predicting that it will mainly come down to the “cost vs. risk” argument, however, time is running out for the NFL if they want any chance at finishing up their season on schedule.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.