The Brooklyn College Vanguard

NFL Fumbles the Ball on COVID-19 Amid Late Season Surge

Written By: Carlos Daniel Martinez  

The Denver Broncos faced the New Orleans Saints on Sunday and looked as though they were without a leader to command the group of men.

   With all four quarterbacks on the Broncos roster out under COVID-19 protocols, and the league refusing to reschedule, the Broncos went with a practice squad wide-receiver, Kendall Hinton, to play quarterback. 

   Hinton played a little bit of quarterback during his college days in Wake Forest University, but transitioned to wide-out in his senior year. Saints future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees didn’t play either, still recovering from broken ribs and a collapsed lung from a rough game against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10. Instead, they went with swiss army knife Taysom Hill, who like Hinton, hasn’t had extensive practice throwing footballs, essentially putting both teams on the field without a true QB. But still, the then 8-2 Saints, with an absent Brees, took no pity on the poor shape of the Broncos.

It wasn’t Hinton’s fault for the Broncos 31-3 loss. He is a rookie with zero experience, who had no other choice but to be thrown into a game against a top-standing team led by the veteran Head Coach Sean Payton.

   The league not allowing the Broncos/Saints game to be rescheduled serves as the kind of punishment that comes to players and training staff who do not follow safety procedures to limit the spread of the virus. 

Drew Lock, one of the Broncos’ starting quarterbacks, posted on twitter, “In a controlled and socially-distanced area, we let our masking slip for a limited amount of time. An honest mistake, but one I will own.”

He then expressed regret by saying, “I sincerely apologize and I fully understand why these safety precautions are so important. Doing the right thing for a majority of the time is not good enough.”

   But what about the Baltimore Ravens? After numerous postponements and a rise of infections among players, shouldn’t the league serve the Ravens the same kind of punishment as well?

   For eight straight days, a player has tested positive on the Ravens roster.

This makes it now 23 players that are out, which includes their star quarterback Lamar Jackson. Originally, the team was supposed to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the only undefeated team left in the league, on Thanksgiving night, but then it got pushed farther to Sunday, then Tuesday, and now this Wednesday, marking the third time this week the game got shuffled to a different date.

   But still, if the tests are coming back positive, players should self-quarantine for at least fourteen days. A few days after Thanksgiving doesn’t necessarily mean that the roster of players will look better by then.

   The NFL believed that the Broncos COVID-19 situation was controlled at a low-risk to be able to resume play, but that was not the case with the Ravens.

   ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who first reported the news on the newest date for the Ravens/Steelers game, also spoke about the league’s decision to go forth with moving certain games back but allowing some to go as scheduled on Monday Night Countdown. “It’s all about identification, isolation, and then containment of the virus. As long as the NFL feels like it has identified, isolated and contained the virus, it believes it can play the games,” he said. “If it can’t identify, if it can’t isolate, and it can’t contain—as was the case in Baltimore—they’re going to continue to postpone the game. That’s why the Broncos-Saints game on Sunday was played. Because the league believed that the virus was identified, isolated and contained in Denver, whereas it wasn’t in Baltimore.”

   This also means the Ravens/Dallas Cowboys game, to accommodate the newest scheduling updates, will now be played on Tuesday, Dec. 8, and the Steelers matchup against the Washington Football Team will now be played on Monday, Dec. 7.

   Since the Santa Clara County in California enforced guidelines and regulations to slow the virus spread, the San Francisco 49ers will be unable to play in their home stadium for the time being. Therefore, the 49ers will be playing their next two home games at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, home to the Arizona Cardinals. They will then “host” both the Buffalo Bills and Washington Football Team on Dec. 7 and 13, respectively.

   The league has included an extra week in being prepared to have to postpone games, all while hoping to maintain its playoff schedule for the Super Bowl that’s on Feb, 7.

These next games will decide who will clinch a playoff spot or not, and when you’re dealing with another constant opponent that’s off-the-field, there’s a physical and mental game going on within each team on how to best follow protocols and show up to practice.

   Can the league afford to keep postponing games if they want to create a path into a regular—or near-regular—playoff schedule in time for February?

The NFL is the most popular league in the country, so people will always tune in, but changing schedules affects revenues, and that won’t be ideal for the league. It will be interesting to see how the league deals with the current infection rates spiking and if the season, if disastrous results continue, can even conclude in its totality.

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