Uncertainty and Perseverance: COVID-19 and the 2020 NFL Season

Josh Marrero, Staff Writer

There is no doubt that this year has been the strangest NFL season in the 100-year history of the league. In the offseason, coaches and fans alike had to deal with the uncertainty of even having a football season and how a COVID season could be operated. Fortunately, with strict rules and guidelines, the season has been underway for ten weeks. However, this start has not come without its own trials and tribulations. There have been a considerable number of games canceled, causing ripple effects across the league with shifted bye weeks and shifted game plans due to players being quarantined.

The team that has been hit the hardest so far in the season is the Tennessee Titans. The Titans saw an outbreak within their team facilities that caused the team to self-quarantine and miss two games. Despite this, some players did not follow guidelines and decided to hold separate workouts together, causing another outbreak within the team. These players are expected to be fined at a later date, and the Titans organization may potentially get additional fines. There is a chance they lose draft picks in the coming years. In the recent weeks, the NFL has made their stance known: repeat offenses of not following guidelines will be punished. Just recently, the NFL brought down a $500,000 fine for Jon Gruden and some players not wearing masks on the sidelines. The Raiders were also fined earlier this season for the same offense, which prompted the league to take away their 2021 sixth-round draft pick. Many think that this is unfair to the organization, but the NFL has remained firm with their decision. Another team that has come into the spotlight for rule violations is the New Orleans Saints. After their huge Week 9 route of Tampa Bay, the Saints celebrated in the locker room in true New Orleans fashion. In the locker room the players had no masks and were almost on top of each other, which leads many to believe they will get substantial fines and potential lose a draft choice. The Saints were fined previously this year for not wearing masks, which means the NFL is likely to enforce a harder punishment for the repeated offense.

Coaches this season have faced plenty of challenges they have never seen before such as: opt-outs, new rules and regulations, players getting sick, and an influx of injuries due to less practice and shorter training camp. Due to the uncertainty and extra circumstances surrounding the season, all players were given an option to opt-out of the season if they believed it was the safest choice for them and their families. The team hit hardest by this has been the New England Patriots. The Patriots, a perennial Super Bowl contender for most of the last two decades, saw a NFL-leading eight players opt-out before the start of the season, including pro-bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower and starting safety Patrick Chung. This is one of the reasons that the Patriots have not been able to return the same production from what was considered by most to be the best defense in the league last year.

One of the biggest obstacles presented to teams across the league this year has been the crazy amount of injuries compared to most seasons. This can be mostly attributed to the fact that teams had a shorter, more-condensed training camp than usual, causing players’ bodies to not be ready for the full NFL season. Superstar players such as Saquon Barkley, Nick Bosa, Odell Beckham Jr., Christian McCaffrey, Michael Thomas, and many others have seen injuries ranging from soft-tissue problems all the way to season-ending injuries like Barkley’s torn ACL.

Approaching the midpoint of the season, there is no question that this is the most unprecedented season in NFL history. However, the coaches and players have been able to persevere and continue with a season that is worth-while and entertaining to fans. The season is projected to remain on track even despite the fact that new case records have been set across the country. The only thing that we as sports fans can hope is for the season to continue on its current course and culminate in an entertaining ending with Super Bowl LV set to kick off in Tampa Bay on February 7th.