The anticipated proliferation of coronavirus and antibody testing has fueled the NFL’s optimism that the 2020 season can be played without a one-location, Bio-Dome approach. But the league realizes that, even with the ability to test everyone who enters a team facility before each time they pass through the doors to determine whether someone is positive for the virus, certain members of the NFL family will need to avoid catching the bug at all costs.
Coaches or other staffers of a certain age and/or persons (including players) with certain health conditions will be at enhanced risk of serious health complications. These individuals may choose to not participate in an NFL season that plays out under such dynamics.
For coaches and other non-playing staff, whether to accept the risk likely will be regarded as an individual decision, with no league- or team-issued decrees setting, for example, an age limit of 60 — which would automatically exclude stalwarts of the sport like Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll from entering a locker room or attending a game. As a source with knowledge of the broader dynamics recently explained it to PFT, if coaches and other non-playing staff decide not to accept the risk, the league realizes that they will need some sort of financial relief, given the circumstances that have caused them to refrain from participating in an unprecedented, and hopefully unique, NFL season.
Most will likely choose to work, however. That’s how people connected to the NFL seem to be wired, especially since choosing not to work will be met with behind-their-back derision from those who choose to show up. And those who are older and/or who have other health conditions will become the most likely to roll their eyes or make sarcastic remarks about those who opted for safety over football.
Some players also will have a decision to make. Morbidly obese offensive and defensive linemen will need to be fully aware of all health conditions they may have, in order to properly understand the risks of serious illness or death. And those who have diabetes (for example, Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson) will be facing a very delicate decision given the proven link between that illness and significant COVID-19 complications.
There are important details that the NFL will have to resolve in coming months, with the good news being that advances made in the treatment of COVID-19 should reduce the risk of death considerably by September. Still, the risk will exist, and those with the enhanced risk factors will have to balance professional pursuits against personal protection and decide whether to take part in the strangest football season we’ll hopefully ever witness.