As the NFL and NFL Players Association deals with the aftermath of the first COVID-19 outbreak of the 2020 season, the league and union should dust off concepts that previously had been discussed but not adopted.
Case in point: The league had proposed a “COVID Academy” aimed at having free agents who are constantly tested for the virus immediately available for any/all teams having a need for new players.
The COVID Academy would have opened the week of September 7, after the setting of rosters and the establishment of practice squads. Players from the COVID Academy would have been eligible for club rosters as of September 14.
The 100 free agents would have stayed at a single location, with daily COVID-19 testing and physical fitness the focal point, as they wait for an opportunity to join a roster or a practice squad.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, negotiations bogged down over issues like compensation and selection of the 100 players. The reality, however, is that plenty of players would have been happy to enter the COVID Academy at little or no compensation, given that it provides the gateway to the possibility of being “called up.”
Regardless of why or how it didn’t happen last month, it’s something that now needs to be considered. As the league and union work to plug any and all potential coronavirus leaks into 32 different franchises, a clear and obvious potential path for infection continues to be new players who haven’t been part of the team-by-team quasi-bubble. By having 100 players in a hardened bubble until needed by one of the 32 teams, that potential leak would be plugged.