Putting on a Season During a Global Pandemic

Putting on a Season During a Global Pandemic

January 2021

The pandemic has affected the sports world greatly. The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) chose to finish their seasons in bubbles with fans attending virtually. Soccer and baseball games were played in empty stadiums. The National Football League (NFL) was the last major American sports
league to resume play during the pandemic. The NFL’s first major change to this season was the cancellation of the four preseason games. Although these preseason games have no impact on the outcome of the season, they serve as a tryout for undrafted players and free agents around the league to earn their spot on a roster. A few noteworthy undrafted players such as Antonio Gates, James Harrison, Tony Romo, Warren Moon and Kurt Warner all got their shot from these preseason games.

The NFL has also opted to not use a bubble for the league. A bubble is where the league all remains in one location for the entire season. Although the bubble format proved effective at preventing the spread of the virus during the NBA bubble in Orlando, it had a grave effect on many players’ mental health. The NFL layed out strict guidelines for the 2020 season to ensure that the league could play during extremely difficult circumstances. Organizations, coaches and players that have failed to meet these guidelines have met harsh punishments. The NFL issued fines to coaches for not wearing masks on the sidelines, took a 2021 7th round pick from the Saints for not wearing a mask in the locker room after a win against the Buccaneers, and took a 2021 6th round pick from the Raiders for COVID violations relating to offensive tackle Trent Brown. So far, the Seattle Seahawks are the only team with 0 players who have tested positive.

The NFL has yet to create an 18th week of the season and has instead shifted schedules to accommodate for positive tests within organizations. This has provided fans with football on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, which may be the start of games on those days normally in years to come. The NFL has given organizations the choice of having limited attendance at their games. These last two adjustments have granted unfair advantages to some teams who have been forced to play against teams with fans on short weeks, but the NFL has continually said that they are only concerned about having a season and not any possible competitive advantages. The NFL has prepared for the event of postponements during the playoffs or the remainder of the season by booking the Superbowl hotels in Tampa Bay for an extra month after the Superbowl. Although the NFL has had outbreaks, it is extremely impressive that they have been able to put on a successful season during these difficult times.