Written by Carter Weissenfluh
The first four weeks of the NFL season have flown by and the first wave of the coronavirus has started to make an impact on the league, causing teams to completely change schedules, players to miss games, and changes to bye weeks. Unfortunately, the spread of the highly contagious virus was almost inevitable in the NFL, but both the league and its franchises have plans to make sure that they take on the virus head-on while limiting the spread to the currently infected teams. The three teams affected by the virus this past weekend were the Tennessee Titans, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the New England Patriots. Without the implementation of a “bubble” designed to keep players and staff contained during the season, it will be interesting to see how the NFL tackles the spread.
The Tennessee Titans were the first NFL team impacted by the virus, and they took the biggest hit to their organization thus far. As of Sunday, October 4th, 16 members of the Titans tested positive for the virus, 8 players and 8 team personnel. As of Tuesday, there have not been any more positive tests from the Titans organization per ESPN. Due to these circumstances, the Steelers vs Titans game has been rescheduled to week 8 and both teams’ bye weeks were changed to week 4. While the Steelers haven’t had any positive tests from their organization they are a prime example as to what can happen when just one team contracts the virus. Schedules will change but as long as the NFL has a plan, they will get through this season, even if they face a delay similar to other professional leagues. One option the NFL may consider going forward is providing a bubble for the playoffs similar to the NBA’s layout, but this would likely be much more difficult given the size of NFL rosters.
The sports world was also shocked on Sunday morning following the news that New England quarterback Cam Newton had tested positive for COVID-19. Newton’s positive test caused the highly anticipated matchup against reigning Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs to be moved to Monday evening. Newton was also unable to play in the game Monday where it looked like had he played, the outcome of the game could have resulted in a win instead of a 10-26 loss to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. The positive test also drastically changed the Patriots’ travel schedule. After departing from New England on Monday morning, players were tested, arrived in Kansas City, checked into their hotel, and then were tested again. This is a major switchup compared to the normal travel schedule for teams where they would usually leave on Thursdays for Sunday games. This gives ample time for the players and coaches to settle in and get prepared for gametime. With the potential for major changes in the weekly schedule, it will be interesting to see how teams are able to adapt and overcome.
Moving forward, only time will tell when it comes to the spread of COVID-19 throughout the league, the completion of 17 weeks, and the reactions from individual franchises. Though there will likely be obstacles along the way, the league and all 32 of their franchises are doing everything they can to protect their players, staff, and to ensure a memorable season for players and fans alike.