A Season Not Quite Fumbled

The NFL has been strict regarding COVID-19 protocol in an attempt to keep the pandemic at bay.

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photo courtesy of NFL.com

NFL Commisioner Roger Gooddell speaks to the media.

Zachary Ludwick, Staff Writer

When the NFL season began, it was expected that there would be a few bumps in the road. Surely enough, that is exactly what happened, as numerous postponements have occurred throughout the league. 

The Steelers have now had two games moved due to COVID-19—the Week Four game against Tennessee moved to Week Six, and this week’s game against Baltimore moved from Thursday to Sunday, to Tuesday, and, finally, to Wednesday. The Ravens had 17 of their 53 rostered players test positive for COVID-19. Steelers running back James Conner also tested positive. Conner, a cancer survivor, has been doing well since his test.

Probably the worst gaffe of the NFL’s season so far was this past weekend, when all of the quarterbacks on the Denver Broncos were required to quarantine after backup Jeff Driskel tested positive. The quarterbacks were not following NFL protocol, so the league forced the team to play practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hilton as QB.

Hilton was the backup QB at Wake Forest University. He completed more passes to Saints defenders—two—than his own team—one to tight end Noah Fant. The Broncos lost by a score of 31-3. The game featured a grand total of 91 passing yards: 78 by Saints QB Taysom Hill and 13 by Hilton. 

Clearly, the NFL’s punishments for violating the league’s COVID-19 protocols have been strict. 

The Las Vegas Raiders were also stripped of a sixth-round draft pick, and the organization was fined $500,000 when they broke protocol. Head Coach Jon Gruden was fined $150,000. 

Additionally, when Week Four’s game against the Steelers was postponed due to positive tests, the Tennessee Titans were found to be in violation of the rules. The organization was fined $350,000. The Titans had 24 players on the COVID-19 list when the game was postponed.

Some of the biggest names in professional football have been taken out due to devastating injuries, and many blame the lack of training camp and pre-season. ”

Also adding to the mess is the constant closing of team facilities. Most recently, the Cleveland Browns had to shut down their facilities due to positive tests within the organization. That is after the entire league had to shut down their facilities on November 30th and December 1st to try to slow the spread of COVID-19 through the players.

While the NFL has been the league that bends for nothing, outside regulations have not been kind to them. The San Francisco 49ers were kicked out of their stadium for the next month by Santa Clara County and will instead play their next two home games in Arizona at State Farm Stadium.

COVID-19 took away team training camps and pre-season, and injuries are up as a result. Some of the league’s best players have suffered season-ending injuries. Among those are Steeler linebackers Bud Dupree and Devin Bush—two of the most valuable defenders on the team.

The Steelers are not the only team affected by injuries. Other players who have lost their seasons include Dak Prescott for the Dallas Cowboys, Joe Burrow for the Cincinnati Bengals, Saquon Barkley for the New York Giants, Anthony Barr for the Minnesota Vikings, Odell Beckham for the Cleveland Browns, and Von Miller for the Denver Broncos. Some of the biggest names in professional football have been taken out due to devastating injuries, and many blame the lack of training camp and pre-season. 

Nothing about this year has been normal, and that is the case with the NFL. Unprecedented events have kept the NFL and its players, coaches, and fans on their toes throughout the season. Even as the country as a whole is seeing spikes in cases, the NFL has still kept its season afloat, despite questions arising about the safety of it. But in the meantime, everyone can keep looking forward to Sunday football.