Beyond the positive result from coach Mike McCarthy, the Dallas Cowboys have a full-blown COVID outbreak. With three days to go until they face the Saints in New Orleans, there’s a chance that more coaches and players will test positive.
It will take a lot more positive tests to derail Thursday night’s game.
Despite the lingering challenge of the pandemic, which has become in 2021 the ever-present threat of a sudden announcement that key player will be out for one or two games, the league seems even more determined than it was in 2020 to get all games played. Unlike last year, the NFL has no inclination to postpone any of its games.
For starters, it will be much harder to delay a game this season, given that thousands of people have purchased tickets to attend a game that is set to begin on a certain date at a certain time. Last year, with few if any fans present, games could be slid around the calendar like double-deckered checkers.
Also, Fox and Amazon won’t be thrilled about losing a prime-time game, especially one that features the Cowboys a week after they contributed to a TV audience of 38.5 million on CBS. And it’s not as easy as shifting the game to Friday or Saturday night; the broadcast antitrust exemption prevents the NFL from televising games on Friday or Saturday, until the second Saturday in December.
So the show must go on. Undoubtedly, the show will go on. There’s a small army of coaches. If scouts or other team employees or even Jerry or Stephen Jones are pulled in to help administer the game, so be it. And with 69 available players and a maximum of 46 in uniform, dozens would have to be unavailable before the league would declare that a team doesn’t have enough players to play.
The magic minimum number falls somewhere between 11 and 46. Maybe it’s closer to 46. Maybe it’s closer to 11. Whatever the absolute smallest game-day roster may be, it will take a lot to get the NFL to pull the plug on a game during the second season of the pandemic.