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COVID’s impact on Week 5 blunder and what to watch for in the upcoming weeks

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Thank goodness Week 5 is over. Out coached, outplayed, bullied, dismantled, whatever negative verb you want to pick from your vocabulary you want to apply to this team’s performance will probably work just fine. The team has a lot to fix and better do it quickly. What made them think they were ok with canceling practice last Friday? It will take me a while to get over that performance, and with the schedule only getting more difficult, my pessimism is overwhelming.

My role here at BF isn’t to sit here and rant, dissect the performance, or tell you what went wrong, so I’m not going to do that. There’s plenty of talented bloggers and podcasters here at BF who are going to hook you up with that content and give you some insight. However, I am going to use this space to rant quickly about the NFL and Roger Goodell.

The NFL was callous and irresponsible

The team refused to make excuses during their postgame interviews, and I’m happy they did that. These guys are professionals, and the team preaches “mental toughness”, and I think it’s safe to say that went out the window this week. They need to be held accountable for their lack of preparation and the way they were completely outcoached and outplayed.

However, the NFL really put this team in a tough situation, and that needs to be considered here. I love the Bills, and that’s why I’m here writing this, and that’s why you guys and girls are reading this. But right now, I want to remember that these guys are human beings with families and some with infants or multiple young children. We are in the middle of a pandemic, and these players and coaches can’t be faulted for having that in the back of their minds.

The NFL played with this team, kept them on their toes, and never gave them a definitive response to when this game would be played. Last Thursday, it was announced the game would be moved to Tuesday night barring any more positive tests. As the weekend came, it was announced by NFL’s Tom Pelissero that a coach had tested positive, and the facility would need to be shut down again. I saw that and said “Ok, game canceled”……wrong.

Despite the change stating “barring any more positive tests”, the NFL basically said, “Nah, it was a coach, so it doesn’t matter.” I put myself in the shoes of the players on this Bills team. I would not have felt comfortable traveling to Tennessee, who had 23 positive COVID cases and allows fans in the stadium. I’m wondering how the team felt trying to prepare for this game all week with so much uncertainty.

I compare it to growing up as a child and going to bed during a snowstorm thinking it was all but certain the following day was going to be a snow day, only to wake up to the news that the snow apparently wasn’t that bad and school was still on. Heartbreak. I believe the coaches and players truly felt this game was going to be postponed. I believed it too. It was not safe to travel to that facility. However, the joke is on us.

This decision for this game to be played was a statement by the NFL that they wanted this game played no matter what and player safety mattered not. Why did the Patriots get their game canceled without question? Why did the NFL maneuver the schedule so much to accommodate the Titans getting this game played? Titans GM Jon Robinson admitted two days ago that the team wasn’t “100 percent following the protocols/guidelines” and Roger Goodell said no discipline will be coming for them. The Patriots were docked draft picks for capturing the 2-14 Bengals on film. The Titans disregarded the health and safety of 31 other teams and their families and are being considered the victims and praised for overcoming “adversity”. All I can say is, UNBELIEVABLE.

The Bills and COVID, moving forward

Okay, now that that’s over, now onto the actual blog. I want to focus this week’s blog on COVID again because there will be a lot to watch for now. Let’s start with our Bills. The Bills were oh so lucky enough to be the first team to travel to Tennessee since their outbreak. This outbreak included 23 positive cases between players and staff, with the most recent positive being a coach over the past weekend.

Titans fans have been adamant that the game should have been played because they went two days with no positive player tests. However, I will defer to the CDC here as to why I am still greatly concerned. The CDC states that the incubation period for COVID-19 is between 2-14 days with a median period of 5 days. This means that the moment an individual is infected with the virus, there is a window of time where they will start to display symptoms, and that window can take 14 days.

We don’t know any information about the coach who tested positive on Saturday morning. When was he last around the players on the team? When was he last around the coaching staff? Until we go 14 days without seeing any positives, we have reason to be concerned. Cam Newton tested positive two days prior to their game, and then Stephon Gilmore tested positive later that week as well (after playing vs the Chiefs). So, just because there are negative tests, it’s entirely possible players test positive days afterward. I hope no players were around that Titans coach.

The Bills are the first team to be forced to travel and play against a team in this situation. Yes, the Vikings played the Titans prior to the outbreak and were able to escape that game without any positive tests themselves, which is a glimmer of hope here. But the Bills were the guinea pigs, the first team to travel to Nashville. The next 14 days will be critical for the Bills, and I am praying that they were able to make it home safe without contracting the virus.

I was upset that the teams decided to hug and handshake at the end of the game. I am all for sportsmanship, but safety first. McDermott and co. seem to be very strict and “by the book”, so there’s no reason to believe they haven’t been cautious and adhering to protocols in the facility. As bad as their performance on the field was, Week 5 will be a victory if they escaped healthy. Injury wise, it looked like they were able to do so. Knox, Dawkins, and Dodson all left the game at one point. Dawkins and Dodson returned, Knox did not. However, Knox’s calf injury is most likely not a long term issue. Over the next two weeks, every day without a positive test will be a win. Let’s hope they make it through 14 straight.

The Bills’ Week 6 opponent, Kansas City, placed FB Anthony Sherman on their COVID/reserve list on Tuesday afternoon. It appears this was done as he was in close contact with someone who tested positive. Hopefully he can string together consecutive negative tests and display zero symptoms (must be done 24 hours spaced apart per NFL protocol), and the Chiefs can avoid a similar situation as the Bills, having played the back to back opponents who have had confirmed players test positive. Those players include Patriots’ Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore and Raiders’ DT Maurice Hurst. The Bills last two opponents were the Raiders (see Hurst hugging Allen closely after the game, and tested positive two days after) and Titans.

The next two weeks

These next two weeks will be critical for the Bills and their success the remainder of the season. An outbreak can be detrimental to the players, coaches, and their families. It can also impact the season. If they were to lose multiple key players to positive tests for multiple games, that could be the difference between a wild card spot and missing the playoffs. Let’s hope the team is able to stay healthy and safe.

Let’s also hope they can also fix the damn defense.

As always,

Go Bills!

Cover the Buffalo Bills for the Buffalo Fanatics media group. Follow on Twitter @gageazeez84

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