Injury Update: The Buffalo Bills and COVID-19

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the world, the United States, our families, and many of us individually. Personally, I just graduated with my Master’s degree in Nursing and officially became a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner on June 13th.

In March, I was finishing my rotation in a few different nursing homes, and one facility had a COVID outbreak, with over 40 patients testing positive and making the headlines in the local news stations, and I was able to see the significant impact on patients, families, and employees first hand. When we saw major sports being canceled like March Madness or postponed like the NBA, NHL, and MLB, I had high hopes that it was discovered early enough and would be under control by the time the NFL season rolled around. Unfortunately, here we are, and the 2020 NFL season remains up in the air.

COVID-19 and the NFL

Prior to facilities opening for training camp, each team needed to have an “IDER plan” approved, which is an infectious disease emergency response plan. These plans vary from team to team, but all needed to meet certain requirements.

The most detailed information I was able to find was about the IDER plan of the Detroit Lions, who state that their IDER plan includes things like handling packages that are delivered to the facility, the types of products and supplies in regards to disinfectants used in the facility, as well as PPE for the players and staff, upgrading HVAC filters, and supplying the employees meals, per Dan Graziano of ESPN.

Other teams have posted pictures of improved locker rooms, with lockers being 6 feet apart to comply with social distancing, and even stands of plexiglass in between each individual locker. As of last week, all 32 teams have had their IDER plans approved by the NFLPA. These approvals have been relieving to players, as many have been quite nervous to return with the uncertainties faced until the recent agreement between the NFLPA and the owners.

Positive Tests & Opt-Outs

During the offseason, there were 107 positive COVID tests from NFL players. To date, we have seen 21 more positive tests for players league-wide since the start of training camp, and even more placed on the reserve list due to contact with an infected individual (NFLPA, 2020). On 7/30, the Bills went home from the facility, as five players have been placed on the reserve list, and it is reported that DB’s Siran Neal, Dane Jackson, and WR Duke Williams have tested positive, per Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic. Siran Neal has since been cleared and promoted back to the 80-man roster as well as DT Vincent Taylor.

In addition to players testing positive and being placed into the reserve list, we have also seen numerous players exercise the “opt-out” clause that was provided to them for this upcoming season per the recent agreement between the owners and the NFLPA. This deadline is set for Thursday, August 6th, at 4 p.m. ET. I expect to see more players from every team opt out, especially with the increase in positive tests we are starting to see.

As of now, the Patriots have had the biggest eye-openers of players who have officially decided to opt out, including key pieces on defense in Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung. As of now, the Bills have had two players officially use this option, that being DT Star Lotulelei and CB E.J. Gaines (who I thought was a great CB2 when healthy in 2017). Over the next 24 hours, I assume there will be many more players choosing to do this across the league.

Tre White

The biggest one Bills fans are anxiously awaiting is the decision of All-Pro CB Tre White, who opened millions of eyes today when he said he remains unsure of his decision to play or opt-out. Tre explains that with having an 11-month-old child at home and another toddler as well. He fears being a risk to their health. He also went on to say that he doesn’t want to leave his wife at home alone with the children, as she will not have any assistance from other family members due to travel concerns. While it will be difficult for fans to watch their teams sans some of their top players (especially Bills fans and Tre White), and the impact it will have on the outcomes of the season, these players’ choices should be respected, as they are putting the health of their families and loved ones first.

A lot of friends and family members have asked my opinion on whether the 2020 season will go on as planned, and I am unfortunately not as optimistic as I was earlier this offseason. While they are completely different leagues, the success or failure of the NBA, NHL and MLB will be a blueprint for what to expect. With the NHL and NBA looking to be successful so far, the MLB is not. The MLB is the best one to compare to the NFL as they do not have a “bubble” and are forcing teams to travel. The NFL will be even harder to keep safe, as players engage in contact with each other every snap, with it almost impossible to prevent respiratory droplets from being exchanged during each game. From the battles in the trenches to the QB’s licking their hands constantly before each snap (see Drew Brees), and calling plays in the huddle, it will be a difficult thing to avoid for the NFL.

Conclusion

I remain hopeful for kickoff to take place as planned in Orchard Park on 9/13 at 1 p.m., even without fans. It will have a very different feel to it, and home-field advantage will be severely impacted without BillsMafia in the crowd. However, like all of you, I am in dire need for some Bills football and eagerly wait for the 2020 Bills to hit the field!

Thanks for reading, and stay safe everyone!

Go Bills!

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