NFL Is Facing Its Worst Scheduling Nightmare With COVID-19 & It’s Getting Worse
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – At the beginning of the NFL season they basically turned a blind eye toward COVID-19 when it came to scheduling. The preseason was canceled but beyond that, a typical schedule was presented and for a good portion of the season it has worked out well in conjunction with protocols in place at each facility.
Bye weeks provided some flexibility as the schedule was tweaked but byes are all but gone and in Week 12 there is a Wednesday afternoon game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers which was to be scheduled on Thanksgiving. It only took one person on the Baltimore staff to cause the outbreak and it is reportedly a strength and conditioning coach who was not wearing his tracker and not always wearing a mask while inside the facility and meeting with players.
This game is not the only one causing headaches, both the Steelers and Ravens games for Week 13 have already been pushed to Monday and Tuesday, respectively for next week. There is little room to keep changing schedules for teams which is allowing for less practice and prep time for teams impacted, especially for a team like the Steelers which has had three games moved so far but to no fault of their own.
The NFL informed clubs all in-person team activities will be prohibited this coming Monday and Tuesday — a mitigation measure in light of rising COVID-19 positivity rates across the country and many players and staff having guests for Thanksgiving. The ban doesn’t include games. pic.twitter.com/ObytXZz5Sg
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 28, 2020
If enough games keep getting moved around, the NFL is likely going to have to push the playoff back to provide enough room to play games.
The NFL should have changed its schedule to include two bye weeks for more flexibility, according to KSL Unrivaled.
Moving this game may not have been the biggest issue facing the NFL this weekend. The Denver Broncos were forced to sit all four quarterbacks on the roster due to Jeff Driskel testing positive for COVID-19. The real issue was that the other quarterback’s Brett Rypien, Blake Bortles, and Drew Lock were at one point within close contact of Driskel and not wearing a mask. That led to all of them being on the COVID-19 list and unable to play.
— Cecil Lammey (@CecilLammey) November 29, 2020
The Broncos had to promote practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton to play quarterback. Hinton was a quarterback during his time in college at Wake Forest before moving to wide receiver to enhance his NFL status. He had no reps all week and was only recently on the Denver practice squad roster.
The NFL could have done a few things in this situation but it chose to basically embarrass and punish the Broncos for not following the rules and force them to play with whoever they had available. It is a bad look for the league and for the Denver organization. There is no blame to put on Hinton’s performance but only praise for him taking this challenge to line up under center with no reps or real knowledge of the playbook.
There are safety issues at play with Hinton under center and the integrity of the game itself. Do not count Broncos head coach Vic Fangio as someone who wants no pity for his quarterbacks who did not follow the rules.
“I was disappointed on several levels, that our quarterbacks put us in that position, that our quarterbacks put the league in that position,” Fangio told reporters. “We count on them to be the leaders of our team, the leaders of our offense, and those guys made a mistake.”
Did The NFL Make Right Move Forcing Denver To Play?
The Denver Broncos quarterbacks totally broke protocol by being in close contact with someone who had COVID-19 in Driskel while not wearing a mask. The move by the NFL seems harsh but it also shows how serious the league is with its coronavirus protocols. Multiple coaches and teams have been fined mid-six-figures and the New Orleans Saints were punished by losing a future seventh-round draft pick.
KSL Sports’ Matt Baiomante agrees with the NFL’s decision to make Denver play because this was so preventable had the quarterbacks just worn a mask.
“I actually like that the NFL made them play the football game because I wasn’t there. I’m just responding to what I know, but based on what we know, it sounds like there was a lapse in the protocol by the Denver quarterbacks,” Baiomante said. “It’s a young group. They tried to go in on an off day to get some work done. Problem is, they went into the facility, and then they didn’t wear their masks. They were loose with it. Then Jeff Driskel, their third-string quarterback, tested positive.”
“Then because of the contact tracing, none of the quarterbacks were able to play, and under those circumstances, I think it is correct of the NFL to have said, ‘too bad you’re playing the football game, because if you had done what we had asked if you had worn masks and contact tracing wasn’t a problem, then you could have played Drew Lock.'”
The league wants to take COVID-19 extremely seriously which is why there are no protocols for not going into the building and even shutting them down for a few days. The NFL must be strict and make it known that any of these issues will have consequences. The dates for Super Bowl and playoffs are basically set and it is probably hard to book Raymond James Stadium a few weeks down the road and the hotels that are needed even in a scaled-down event. The league is doing what it needs to in its best interest to get through this season and play every game.
Expect for there to be more adjustments to the schedules due to outbreaks are bound to happen as the rise in cases across the country are in lock-step with NFL COVID-19 cases. With just one more week in byes featuring just two teams, the league will need to be flexible and likely need to utilize Week 18 as the final week of the regular season to get all of the games in. Players, coaches, and staffs need to be on their best behavior to make sure they can play their scheduled games and not have to make it work on the fly.