Right at the start, I’m going to caveat this piece by saying how generally, the NFL has done a good job in managing COVID and in getting as many games played as there has been with minimum disruptions. But I feel we’re on the precipice of scheduling and punishment chaos.
Let’s look at Week 12s games for a start.
The Ravens and Steelers finally matched up last night almost a week after they originally should. The delay was primarily due to numerous cases of COVID, mainly in the Ravens camp, being detected. With star QB and reigning MVP, Lamar Jackson and 17 other players in COVID protocol the NFL pushed the game back as much they could. Seems fair.
Back in October, the Patriots QB Cam Newton also had a positive test and the matchup between the Patriots and the Bronco’s pushed back a week. The Titans match with the Steelers way back in September was also postponed.
But when the Broncos have to isolate their whole QB room – nothing is done.
From one point of view I get it. The isolation was in part due to the failure of the Bronco QBs to follow mask discipline. Even if you disagree with wearing masks during the current crisis (and, personal opinion here – why on earth would you when every legit scientist around the world seems to agree that masks help prevent the transmission of COVID), you can surely appreciate the need to follow what are simple instructions ordained by your boss. So I do get why the NFL wanted to seemingly punish the Broncos – but the punishment was unfair and unjust.
Other teams have lost draft picks and been fined for lapses in ‘mask discipline’ (the Raiders and Saints spring to mind as examples). But neither have had to effectively forfeit a game. There’s a good chance that the Ravens will also be investigated for lapses which has caused the most recent outbreak in Baltimore. None of those teams have had to forfeit a game.
The other appalling point is the danger that the NFL effectively put Kendall Hilton in. The guy hasn’t played QB for a number of years and couldn’t make it as a QB at Wake Forrest college so moved to receiver. The Broncos, with no other alternatives (the NFL ruling out the appeal for offensive quality control coach Rob Calabrese to start who at least may have had some knowledge of the playbook) promoted Kendall Hinton from the practice squad and placed him in the sights of a good and improving Saints defence. In an era where player safety is dominating rule changes and many decry the apparent ‘softening’ of the game (albeit rightly), it seems preposterous to place a player in such a position where he’s going to be targeted by some of the most ferocious athletes in the world.
With the numbers of COVID cases sadly continuing to rise with little to no end in sight, I think we can assume that there are going to be further disruptions to the schedule and the NFL are going to have to look at what disciplinary measures are put in place. I think there should be a level of discipline issued to teams that fail to comply – my only ask is that it’s consistent and fair.
Main Image credit: “File:Drew Lock.JPG” by Jeffrey Beall is licensed with CC BY 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0