The NFL has done a fair amount of talking about “player safety” in the last few years as it concerns concussions and head trauma. This, of course, came after a long period where they seemed to cover up and minimize the data on the long-term effects concussions have. This has led many NFL fans to, reasonably, question the NFL’s sincerity about player safety.
The Tennessee Titans Situation
This Sunday, the Buffalo Bills are set to go to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans in Nissan Stadium, but there is a coronavirus outbreak in that organization, and they seem to have no control. It would be one thing if, as Titans coach, Mike Vrabel, put it, this was “no one’s fault.”
But the reality is, Mike, that it is someone’s fault, or, at least, you and your players helped contribute to this. After a number of positive COVID tests, the NFL ordered the Titans to shut down their facility, and they did so. The following day, the team held practices together at a high school. This may not be direct defiance of the rules, but it is certainly direct defiance to the spirit of that shutdown order. The logic defending this sort of irrational and stupid behavior would have to be that the facility is what made the outbreak happen, so a different venue would be fine. That, of course, is beyond the pale.
The Titans acted without concern for their players, their staff, the families, and their opponents, and they should be punished for it.
The Buffalo Bills Situation
Unlike the Titans, the Bills have not had any positive tests so far this season, and McDermott and his staff have been praised for how they’ve created a safe working environment. The Bills are scheduled to play the Titans on Sunday, but that is currently in doubt.
But, if you’re a Bills player with kids, elderly parents, etc., how comfortable would you feel playing the Titans on Sunday when they have shown such recklessness? I wouldn’t blame players for refusing to travel. Remember, this team is not in a bubble, so it’s not just the players that need to be considered but everyone else in their lives.
Unfortunately, the Bills play the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football, so moving the game to Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday night is out of the question. So, what can the league do?
I’ve heard many suggestions about how this situation can be solved. Here are just a few:
- An extra week or two is added to the end of the season to accommodate unplayed games.
- Playoffs will be determined by winning percentages as opposed to records.
- Add an extra bye week in the season for each team in case these situations arise.
- The Titans, because of their egregious behavior and lack of bye week now, are forced to forfeit the game.
Alternative number one is flawed because it would mean that playoffs teams (especially those with a bye week) could be waiting 3-4 weeks to play. This is not a great solution, and this is especially true for teams that somehow do not require extra weeks to play their schedule.
Alternative number two is asinine. The Titans, if they can avoid games, just avoided playing to undefeated teams. Should they get to go to the playoffs because they have a great record against only the weaker teams on their schedule? I don’t think so.
I think the third alternative makes sense. Adding an extra bye week into the season would allow for some flexibility. I heard this suggested before the season began, and I do hope the league implements it.
But in this case, I think the Titans should have to forfeit their game against the Bills. They acted carelessly, foolishly, and certainly not in the spirit of the protocol meant to keep their players safe. I don’t want Bills players and staff (and by proxy, their families) wantonly exposed to COVID-19 because the league doesn’t want to miss out on a couple bucks.
People whine that it wouldn’t be fair, but how fair is it to have to risk one’s health because of another team’s callousness? No, it is fair. Of course, I always want to watch my Bills play, but this week, I think the NFL needs to do the right thing. They need to make the Titans forfeit as punishment for their behavior.
If the NFL truly does care about player safety over their bottom line (they don’t), then measures have to be taken to further prevent outbreaks, punishment for stupid behavior by coaches and staffs needs to be harshly meted out, and perhaps, the league and the NFLPA need to consider a bubble of some sort.
Well, that’s how I feel. Let me know how you feel about this situation on Twitter @adamnannini and give us a chat on @BfloFanatics!