NFL teams have, technically, a “virtual bubble” around each practice facility. But the bubble bursts each night, as players and coaches go home.
Coupled with testing that has a 24-hour turnaround, the ability of players to go home (and potentially catch the virus from a family member, even if the player himself doesn’t go anywhere) creates a real risk of an outbreak. An easy way to limit that risk is to harden the bubble, putting players, coaches, and other essential staff in a hotel.
That issue has been discussed in recent days from the perspective of whether the league should mandate a harder bubble. Apparently, however, there’s another way to skin the cat: Set up a voluntary bubble.
You know, voluntary. Like voluntary workouts. Voluntary, as in not really voluntary.
That’s exactly what the Saints are doing during camp. According to the NFL, nothing prohibits it, because the Saints aren’t mandating it. It’s voluntary.
So why isn’t every team doing it during training camp? Those that do it likely will have fewer outbreaks, and in turn will have a team that is more prepared for the regular season.
As to the regular season, why not continue the voluntary bubble? If the coaches are doing it and the executives are doing it and the team leaders are doing it, everyone else will fall in line. Really, who wants to be the one who’s going home at night and showing up the next day to interact with teammates who are sacrificing family time to remain sequestered? Whether side eye or stink eye or evil eye or some combination of the three, the player who doesn’t go along will have a hard time getting along.
That’s not to say that squeezing a player to choose living with the team over living with his family is right or wrong. But the reality is that teams can set up a voluntary bubble, and that the teams that are the most effective at getting everyone to volunteer will likely do a better job of keeping their players available to play. Which will in turn give them a better chance to win.