NFL teams and coaches continue to wrestle with the question of whether outbreaks have resulted (and/or will result) from flaws in the league’s protocols or failures of execution. Although the evidence trickling out from 345 Park Avenue regarding the Tennessee situation points to a failure of execution in that case, questions linger regarding whether the league’s protocols can prevent outbreaks, even if teams comply to the letter.
Case in point, and as mentioned on Wednesday, locker-room facilities for visiting teams are less than spacious at some stadiums. This makes it difficult if not impossible to keep players far enough apart to remove the dressing/undressing area’s Petri dish quality.
Arrowhead Stadium, for example, is one of the stadiums that has a small locker room for the visiting team. Simms attested to the lack of elbow room during Thursday’s PFT Live, mentioning at one point the possibility of having a teammate’s “butt in your face” while changing.
Take a look at the photo attached to this post. It’s from a 49ers-Chiefs preseason game in 2019, taken in the visiting-team locker room at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Patriots were relegated to that cramped space, which was estimated to be roughly 1,000 square feet, on Monday night. Per a league source, the Patriots asked for more space, and their request was declined.
So the league can claim its protocols work and that any team with an outbreak must not have followed the protocols, but the Patriots had to use a locker room on Monday night that was cramped — and one of the players in the locker room (Stephon Gilmore) tested positive the next day.
Thus, the league’s effort to improve the situation on the fly must (in order to be truly effective) ensure that teams will be able when on the road to dress and undress and re-dress with more than six feet between players. Until that happens, there will be a pathway for those who inevitably will catch the virus away from the team facility to spread the virus to teammates.