Yesterday, as many as fourteen individuals within the Miami Marlins baseball team tested positive for the coronavirus, resulting in the postponement of three games within just the first week of the MLB season. The outbreak within the Marlins organization is not only problematic for baseball, but it also bodes poorly for the NFL as they attempt to begin their season in early September.
Today, NFL training camps are set to open around the country. Five members of the Minnesota Vikings organization, including head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, have already tested positive for the virus, which has started to raise concerns within the NFL community.
Ten players have already decided to opt out of this year’s season and forfeit their salaries, including New England Patriots linebacker and three time Super Bowl champion Dont’a Hightower, who recently welcomed a new child into his life earlier in July. Among the players who have chosen to opt out also include Patriots tackle Marcus Gannon, a cancer survivor who is deemed high risk, and Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a player who is also actively working to fight the virus as a doctor on the front lines.
Despite the apparent setbacks and skepticism, there is some good news for NFL fans; the NFL and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) have already agreed to terms on how to begin the season safely, which includes rigorous guidelines for players and team personnel to be permitted to work inside the building, and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes recently stated that the safety protocols being taken by his team was, “better than I thought coming in.”
Another advantage the NFL has over the MLB, other than more time to prepare and make the necessary adjustments to combat the virus, is a steadier relationship between the players and owners. Although the relationship between the players and owners within the NFL is contentious at best, the dynamic within the MLB is abysmal. It took the MLB and the MLBPA months to come to an agreement on how to resume the season, and the negotiations between the parties stalled so much that it almost resulted in no season occurring at all this year. They also agreed on the playoff format of the season AFTER the season had already begun last week.
Whether or not the NFL will be able to go ahead as planned depends greatly on what occurs within the MLB in the coming weeks. The response of the Marlins, the Philadelphia Phillies (the Marlins’ opponent the night before the influx of positive tests), and the league will determine if the safety protocols in place are enough to prevent the virus from spreading out of control from team to team. If baseball is able to contain the virus and continue playing their season with little or no interruption, it would appear that the NFL will indeed be ready to go ahead and play their season. However, if baseball fails to contain the spread of the virus and certain teams, or the entire league has to pause the season, it will cast a very ominous shadow over the prospects of a 2020 football season.