Columnists, Sports

First and Goal: The NFL’s first COVID-19 test is still under review

The NFL will want you to believe it has won its first two battles in containing the coronavirus.

The truth is: we simply don’t know yet.

The Tennessee Titans had several positive tests within the organization last week, forcing the postponement of their Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The first positive test came Sept. 24 and at least one more case arose for each of the six days up until Monday. 

Disaster was seemingly avoided until Wednesday when it was revealed that two more Titans players had tested positive, putting a devastating halt on Tennessee’s season. 

Now it’s the New England Patriots who are worried about a possible team outbreak.

Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive Saturday morning, forcing the postponement of New England’s Sunday game against Kansas City. Instead of rescheduling the game for another week, the league decided to push it to Monday night. 

All tests on Sunday and Monday came back negative for the Patriots. But then on Wednesday, cornerback and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore confirmed he had tested positive for COVID-19. 

If there’s anything we should take from the recent White House outbreak, it’s the incubation period of the virus.

One large event hosted at the White House Sept. 26 for the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, and suddenly the virus has snuck into what is supposed to be the most secure place on Earth. 

From that point on, a multitude of people who attended the event or work in the White House have tested positive for the virus. The most important thing to understand here is the amount of time in between positive test results.

President Donald Trump announced he had tested positive on Friday just before 1 a.m., and new cases are still popping up around the president. His press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tested positive Monday and assistant commandant of the Marine Corps Gary Thomas tested positive Wednesday.

This timeline shows how foolish it was for the NFL to force Monday’s game instead of being careful. Newton’s test results came back positive on Saturday, meaning he very well could have been infectious when he was tested on Friday and practicing with teammates.

If teammates were exposed on Friday, then much like in the White House’s case, more people could still test positive in the upcoming days if the virus incubates that long.

There is no mask mandate for team practices, and football is obviously a high-contact sport. Fortunately, Newton is the quarterback, which means he’d experience almost no contact during practice as a safety precaution, but if the team was huddled up at all, it could be an issue.

Players and personnel must wear a mask when inside the team facility and that is where personal responsibility comes into play. If everyone on the Patriots followed the protocols set up to prevent the spread of the virus, we most likely wouldn’t see new cases on the team. 

The league is now investigating both the Patriots and Titans to see if protocols have been broken by either team. 

On Wednesday, it was reported that the Titans are likely to face discipline for violations of COVID-19 safety protocols. A reported focal point of the Titans’ violations include the team’s compliance with the use of personal protective equipment and contact tracing devices.

The Titans now face what some league sources are calling a possibly “historic” punishment from the NFL. In a memo released Monday to all teams, the league wrote if teams are found to be flouting virus protocols, they could be subject to forfeiting their game that week if they are unable to play safely.

The NFL laying down the hammer for punishments is great but somewhat surprising. In a league that has always been involved in controversy for the punishments it has handed down, it’s nice to finally see it take a reasonable stance.

Coaches have been getting fined astronomical amounts of money — $350,000 a pop —  for mask violations during games, but the threat of forfeiting a game and player pay will certainly help enforce the rules put in place to help this season run as smoothly as possible.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *