A full, league-wide NFL bubble isn’t practical, given the sheer numbers of players and coaches and other essential personnel involved. But virtual bubbles consisting only of 32 team facilities may not be practical, either.
Players and coaches will leave those bubbles for their homes, regularly. Even if they never leave their homes until returning to work, family members surely will. And if one of them brings the virus home, the player or coach may then bring it to the bubble. Unless and until the NFL secures rapid and reliable point-of-care testing, a 24-hour lag will exist between sample collection and test result. Which means that a player who tested negative yesterday may be positive today, but no one will know until tomorrow.
One way to minimize that risk would be to create an even stronger bubble around each team. What if, then, one or more team sequester all players, coaches, and staff in a hotel for the entire season?
Plenty of players wouldn’t like it. Plenty of players would strongly considering opting out over it. At the end of the day, the league likely would have 32 teams made up of enough players, coaches, etc. who would sign up for the five-month sequestration, if the alternative was to not work at all this season.
This approach would significantly enhance the chances of getting all 256 regular-season and 13 postseason games played. And it would significantly enhance the chances of the players and other employees getting paid their full salaries.
This would be an extreme approach, without question. But if it’s the only way to minimize outbreaks and, in turn, to get the games played, it should at least be considered.
Perhaps it’s a strategy that could be used in specific locations, based on the local status of the pandemic. In some cities that currently are among the world’s biggest hot spots, a team could begin the season in sequestration and then revert to everyone living it home. In others, the need for sequestration may arise during the season. For others, the whole season may consist of living in a hotel.
Regardless, it’s important for the league to at least be exploring options like this, if the goal is — as it should be — to play every game, without postponement or cancellation.