Sport The NFL has officially reached its COVID tipping point

02:55  29 november  2020
02:55  29 november  2020 Source:   touchdownwire.usatoday.com

Vikings OL Dru Samia tests positive for COVID-19

  Vikings OL Dru Samia tests positive for COVID-19 Vikings offensive lineman Dru Samia has tested positive for COVID-19. Contact tracing is being performed, and Samia and anyone deemed a high-risk contact will not be permitted to travel with the team for tomorrow night’s game against the Bears. © Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports Samia, a 2019 fourth-rounder, started four games for Minnesota earlier this year before returning to a reserve role. But the Vikings just released Pat Elflein and now find themselves without their top backup at guard. Plus, there is a good chance that there will indeed be high-risk contacts given the nature of O-line/D-line play.

There have been hiccups throughout this pandemic-plagued NFL campaign. But the league has pressed forward and been able to avoid season-altering scheduling catastrophes. The Covid outbreak currently engulfing the Baltimore Ravens will end that streak of good fortune.

The NFL has announced new measures to help curtail a recent surge in COVID -19 activity. NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Friday night that clubs have been informed that all in-person team activities will be prohibited this coming Monday and Tuesday -- Nov.

It was bound to happen, as the last vestiges of the Trump administration continued to ignore a pandemic that moves unabated among us.

a close up of a person wearing a costume © Provided by Touchdown Wire

It was bound to happen, as various state governors ignored and dismissed mask mandates that would have helped.

It was bound to happen, as the NFL tried to balance a responsible position on COVID while keeping the games going on a no-matter-what basis.

Just as certainly as we have reached yet another tipping point in America as regards the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL has seen its own tipping point, and there appears to be no way out.

A new administration with better plans and mandates will help, but that’s almost two months away from even beginning, and we have to wonder what’s going to happen in a larger sense as cases and deaths continue to spike in the second wave — and in a much smaller sense, what will happen with the NFL’s schedule.

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As it stands right now, we have a second Steelers-Ravens game that has been moved from last Thursday to this Sunday to this Monday to this Tuesday, with no sense of surety as to when the game will be played, or if it will be played at all. On Saturday, the Ravens added six more to a reserve/COVID-19 list that already had 12 players. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is among the players, and as it stands, the team has just two quarterbacks, six offensive linemen, and three defensive linemen on its active and practice squad rosters.

“It’s all been done. It’s all completed; there are no other players,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said last Monday, when it was running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins who were on the list. “To that point, it’s a credit to our players and our coaches. No coaches were involved at all and no players. Well, there is one other player that is in the five-day deal – Brandon Williams. So, I think he’ll probably be on that list, now that I think about it. But there’s nobody else besides that and nobody else that has [COVID-19]. I think our players did a great job on the sideline with the masks. [They did] a great job in the locker room. They tried to follow the protocols throughout the game and then throughout the weekend at the hotel and in the meetings during the week. Our guys have done a good job of that, so I’m appreciative of them for that. That’s probably the thing that gives us the chance to play this game on Thursday night, because the guys have been doing a great job of that here in the building and at the game.”

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The NFL and players union agreed to a virtual offseason program on Monday. And in order for it to end, every state with a franchise must lift its COVID -19 restrictions. The league will reopen its doors to players when every state with a franchise lifts COVID -19 lockdown restrictions.

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A few days later, you see how quickly this thing can spread.

Meanwhile, the Steelers are dealing with their own COVID issues. On Saturday, one day after placing three players on the reserve/COVID list, Pittsburgh added running back James Conner to the list. As a cancer survivor, Conner is out for at least 10 days, unless he is asymptomatic and receives two consecutive negative PCR virus tests at least 24 hours apart and receives permission from the team doctor and infection control for sports. In addition, the team announced that special teams coach Danny Smith and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada will not coach against the Ravens because of “illness.”

In total, the Ravens and Steelers have 25 players on the reserve/COVID list.

The 49ers also have issues to deal with, Santa Clara County officials have banned all sports and practices for three weeks due to a high spike in cases in the region. The 49ers are scheduled to play the Bills on December 7 and Washington on December 13 at Levi’s Stadium, but those games are not going to happen where they were scheduled to happen.

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“We’ve come to a place where our cases and hospitalizations are so high we have to do something to settle them down,” Santa Clara County health official Dr. Sara Cody said on Saturday, via The Athletic. “We are now at a critical inflection point.”

One option for the 49ers is the old shell of the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum, but there’s no sure word of that.

“It’s been a challenge,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said on Friday, one day before his world turned upside down, and his biggest concern was Zoom meetings and the six guys he had on his own COVID list. “The meetings have been the easier part. I think everyone in the league is getting used to Zooming. We got to do it a lot in the off season, so that just added some travel time and a few more minutes in the day, but that wasn’t bad at all. Just the challenges of being off a week, which everyone has on a bye week. That’s why you usually do a few things, but we weren’t able to because of the COVID stuff. The biggest challenge was coming back, having a week off and knowing how much work we had to get to get crisp and really only getting in on Wednesday.

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“So yesterday finding out, losing those three players, about 15 minutes before practice started kind of made us scramble a little bit. So, guys wanted to get work in, but we had to be smart. We were just too low on guys and if we would have gone full speed, it would have really hurt a certain group of players. So, we had a walkthrough for everyone, just to get us through it. We were able to have one full speed period a day of seven on seven. So, that’s been the challenge. I think you can look at it as we needed some rest, so it makes you a little bit fresher and stuff, but you never want to get too much rest either. So, it’s a fine line. We’re just trying to balance out, back and forth with it.”

Well, good luck with that.

And then, there’s the Broncos, who had to send all their quarterbacks home as a precaution after Jeff Driskel tested positive. The Broncos are supposed to face the Saints on Sunday, but with what at the game’s most important position is unknown. At this point, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, all four quarterbacks are ineligible to play against the Saints because they weren’t wearing masks around Driskel (way to go, guys), and the Options B at this point appear to be running back Royce Freeman and/or practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton — these are the only players on the roster with any sort of quarterbacking experience.

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Freeman completed a pass in his freshman year at Oregon for a touchdown (to Marcus Mariota!), and Hinton was a quarterback/receiver at Wake Forest from 2015 through 2019, completing 133 passes in 251 attempts for 1,501 yards, eight touchdowns, and two interceptions. Per Mike Klis of Denver’s 9News, the Broncos were also investigating the possibility of putting quality control coach Rob Calabrese on the roster as a quarterback, but the NFL wouldn’t allow that. Calabrese played quarterback and receiver at UCF from 2008 through 2012.

(By the way, it should be abundantly clear at this point that no NFL team will ever sign Colin Kaepernick. Because if they were going to, now would be the time).

So, what are the NFL’s “doomsday scenarios/” There’s the Week 18 possibility. There’s moving the season back and shutting things down for a while to let things calm down, but given the way things are going around the country in a larger sense, it’s not clear how well that would work out.

“I think we’d all like to get back to a sense of normalcy and a schedule we can count on,” Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer, said on the Today Show on Thanksgiving Day. “That is not just true in the NFL but in daily lives, with schools and businesses. What we said throughout the season is we have to remain flexible and adaptable because safety is our top priority. Our number one priority is to make sure we put two teams on the field who are infection free, and that we can keep everyone safe, players, coaches, and staff on both sides. And so, we have to make the decisions that lead us to that place and be ruled by the science and not be ruled by the schedule. And that’s what we’ve tried to do consistently throughout this entire season.”

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It’s a nice thought in theory, but in practice, as both the NFL and the nation go forward, the answers are in much shorter supply than the questions.


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