Despite concerns, the NFL season will happen in some form
Spoiler alert: There will be NFL football this season. No matter what else you read here, take heart in that. There might be fits and starts, delays and problems, but it will happen, despite a lot of chatter otherwise. There will be a lot of negotiation back and forth, much like there was with baseball. It will be frustrating and sometimes infuriating, but something will get done. Let's start with that.
Still, players like J.J. Watt have every right to be concerned. Playing games in home stadiums will not be easy.
First off, the concern of illness is not high for athletes, although the Rona can be tough on anyone at its worse. But their families, team support staff, coaches...all would be at risk. While the NBA and NHL are playing in a bubble, NFL players will not, which means they will be more likely to be exposed.
They will also be in constant contact with each other on the field, so the illness will get passed along if someone has it. There will be no surprise if multiple players opt out, including a few big names. That is perfectly OK; players have every right to make those kinds of decisions.
It's a decision that transcends sports. Many companies are having to make similar choices. In fact, re-opening schools will have a related impact. While the students should be OK, many of the teachers will be at risk. The difference is that fewer of them will be able to opt out, simply because they can't afford to do so. That dynamic, plus the contact of the sport, probably means college football is not as likely to happen.
But the NFL will still likely figure out a way. Limited or no fans, the TV deals alone are too much to ignore. European soccer has been able to thrive under a similar model, but while there is contact, it is not what NFL players endure. Baseball is doing it as well, but there is limited physical contact, so the risk is not as high. Regardless, it is hard to predict how things will play out.
The NFL could have limited travel by creating a bubble model of its own. Playing games in cities like Houston or Dallas, which have multiple quality stadiums, eliminating interconference play and keeping players in one city could limit the possibility of the disease spreading. But that is not something that has been considered.
So with this model comes risk, and the players are rightfully concerned. The result? There will be a lot of back and forth. Some players will sit out, and that may include impact athletes like Watt, which will have a negative effect on some teams. There will be concerns that the season won't happen. But in the end, a deal will be made, and there will be football.
And risk. But the reward will be America's greatest sport having some semblance of a season.
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