By Edwin Duodu ~ Co- Sports Editor
Violation fines are rising each week in the National Football League, as teams continue to be affected by the Coronavirus. Every organization knew the risks of continuing in what has been a hectic 2020 season. Regardless, the main question remains for NFL officials whether they can maintain this towards the end of the season and the future. Being that frequent fines are being assessed, it’s evident that part of the plan to keep the season going smoothly isn’t working. Also, some players seem to be losing focus on adhering to the Covid protocols and safety regulations. With the NFL season nearing playoff time, a joint effort needs to be made to regulate and potentially contain the Coronavirus.
Over the last two weeks, the league has been affected by Covid 19 the most since training camp earlier this year. This has caused officials to consider following a model that the NBA used to finish out the last season, incorporating an isolated area for players to participate in. League Reporters Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero elaborate on this concept in their article NFL playoff bubble a subject of active discussion as COVID cases rise, stating that “NFL officials are actively discussing creating “local bubbles” for the 14 or 16 teams that make the playoffs.” Although this could pose a possible solution for squads, the risk would ascend significantly if a player were to leave the bubble and somehow test positive. That would increase the risk of those in the bubble testing positive, which could be very detrimental to them. Having a bubble in place would also take time to implement, delaying the playoffs when multiple games have been rescheduled this season already.
B having these safety options on the table, it’s clear that the NFL officials are trying their best to hold up their end of the bargain, but is the same to be said about the players? Players and coaches have already totaled over $1 million in fines during the second week of game time. Recently, Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, and Blake Bortles, who happened to be on the practice squad, were unable to attend their week 12 matchup against the Saints because they came in close contact with Jeff Driskel, who tested positive. Coming in close contact with Driskel isn’t the main issue here. The quarterbacks demonstrated irresponsibility and carelessness by not wearing their masks. This action questions the integrity of the players and the leadership of the team. Why didn’t coaches drill these safety protocols enough into their players? Where is the leadership within the locker room? Why are NFL coaches and staff not setting examples instead of receiving fines themselves? For this season to continue to work, everyone needs to be on board. The league needs to start again with the basics, beginning with wearing masks. A well-coached team such as the New Orleans Saints shouldn’t receive a silly fine for celebrating a victory in the locker room without masks. There’s too much at risk.
With the NFL starting a new season in a crazy year such as 2020, the bumpy roads and mistakes were predicted to happen. However, it also serves as lessons for next season. The league can experiment with a bubble and ensure that every player follows safety rules, even if it means receiving heavier penalties and more missed game action.