While the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to report for the first testing day of training camp tomorrow, on the other side of Pennsylvania the Florida Marlins made the news, and not in a good way.
Updating the Miami Marlins’ outbreak: The total number of infected players is 11 of the 33 who have been traveling with the team and two coaches, sources tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 27, 2020
The Marlins-Orioles and Yankees-Phillies games tonight have been postponed. For now, the rest may be played.
The Marlins had several players test positive before their July 26th game against the Phillies. While those players, including their starting pitcher, were scratched from the game, the Marlins still played, and won, the game. Then this morning more positive tests followed and games are being postponed because of it. The Marlins are currently quarantined in Philadelphia.
This event stands in contrast to the NHL reporting that last week they had zero positive tests among all 32 teams.
The NHL announced ZERO positive COVID-19 results among the 800 players tested during the second week of formal training camps. https://t.co/OX1MuLGTiE— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) July 27, 2020
Four thousand, two hundred and fifty-six tests, with zero positives.
Much is going to be made of the NHL playing in “bubble cities”, while MLB is not. And there is a valid concern about the different ways the leagues are approaching COVID-19 precautions.
With the biggest sport in the United States of America looking to start their own training camps, a lot of focus is on the NFL and how they will deal with COVID-19, and whether there will even be a season.
The outbreak among the Marlins has put shock waves through the sports world, and it may not be over, as the Phillies players who played the Marlins will be getting tested to see if the disease infected their players during game interactions.
It is under these circumstances that the NFL prepares to open training camps, with players reporting tomorrow. BTSC reported Saturday on the approved schedule for training camp, and today Judy Battista reported more details for NFL.com.
A primer on what training camp will look like. To steal a line from Dr. Allen Sills, the CMO of the NFL, it won’t feel normal because it won’t be normal. https://t.co/mZs8Ae9mCV— Judy Battista (@judybattista) July 27, 2020
Some of the important passages from the article include the plan to test players 3 times before allowing them in the facilities.
Players can’t even enter their team’s building before passing three COVID-19 tests that are administered within a four-day period. Starting Tuesday and continuing through July 31, players will show up, take tests on back-to-back days, then go home and self-isolate for 24 hours, before returning on Day 4 to take another test — and only after that third one is negative can they proceed to getting their equipment and physicals on Aug. 1 and 2.
Additionally, players will be equipped with contact tracing devices which will be used to contain outbreaks.
All team personnel will wear high-tech contact-tracing monitors, which should help the league immediately determine who came into close contact with players who test positive, making it easier to isolate and test them.
The NFL is not going to fully isolate players, and while there are rules in place about what players can and cannot do during the season, the players will have to follow the guidelines.
If they don’t?
There has been no number given or what conditions would have to be present, but Dr. Sills has made it clear that there are scenarios where a team would have to stop working because of an outbreak in the building. That opens up the possibility that a team could have to postpone and reschedule games or, more unlikely, forfeit a game this season. And yes, that same possibility exists for the league as a whole — conditions on teams and in the country could force it to stop temporarily.
Many sports fans are pessimistic about whether these plans can work, and that’s understandable in the current setting, but NFL players are adults just like the rest of us, and they will, in the end, be responsible for their own choices and how those choices affect their friends and co-workers. But even if outbreaks cause teams to lose games, or force a temporary shutdown, that doesn’t mean the end of the season. Right now the NHL is finishing its 2019-2020 season with a delayed playoffs. The NFL will do everything it can to make sure games happen, even if it is just to fulfill their TV contract. The league might lose a few games to COVID-19, but games can be postponed and played later, seasons can be interrupted for a few weeks (or, as we see in the NHL, a few months) and then continue.
This NFL season will not be normal as 2020 is not a normal year. But with precautions in place and guidelines being followed, it can still be a season. All of us, players, coaches and fans need to do our part to slow and stop the spread of this virus so we can get back to normal as soon as possible, and have the best version of this abnormal season that we can.
As always, stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain for all the latest news about the Steelers and the 2020 NFL season.