As the NFL continues to struggle with the containment of COVID-19 in team facilities, NFL coaches continue to become more and more frustrated by the league’s approach.
Per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, there’s a growing belief in the coaching community that the league is more concerned about blaming teams for outbreaks than preventing outbreaks from happening.
As one source explained it to PFT, Monday’s league-wide conference call included a presentation from NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills. He emphasized during the call that infections are inevitable but that if teams follow all protocols the infections will be contained. When the possibility of a team-by-team or regional bubble was mentioned, Sills argued that the league’s protocols, if followed, are superior to a bubble.
Most would disagree with that. Although Sills pointed out that pathways to infection would be created via housekeeping, janitorial, maintenance, and food-service staff, neither the NBA nor the NHL had outbreaks under identical circumstances. Moreover, severely limiting the off-duty movement of all players, coaches, and essential personnel would avoid the reality that everyone who leaves the facility every night has a unique set of facts and circumstances that could result in exposure to the virus via airborne transmission, which seems to be the most prominent way to catch it.
Some suspect that the league isn’t pushing a bubble approach because: (1) the NFL Players Association refuses to agree to it; and (2) the NFL doesn’t want to have to make the concession needed to secure the union’s agreement. Although the NFLPA should want to put players in a bubble in order to avoid the loss of game checks resulting from games that are canceled and not rescheduled, the union quite possibly believes that the league will do whatever it has to do to get the games played.
Some coaches believe that, indeed, the league will do whatever it has to do to get the games played — to the point that health and safety of players and coaches is taking a backseat to playing the games. They think that the league wants to be able to say, in the event someone gets sick or worse, that the problem wasn’t the protocols but the failure of one or more teams to follow them.
Coaches still haven’t universally accepted that proposition. Like a defense that isn’t performing well, coaches wonder whether the current struggles result from bad players or a bad plan. The league, obviously, believes its plan is fine. Some coaches have real questions about that.
However it plays out, some coaches believe that the league’s knee-jerk reaction to any outbreak will be to blame the team, fine the team mercilessly, and at all times claim that the league has zero responsibility for the spread of the virus in any team facility or during any game.