Cory's Corner: The NFL Needs Better Approach

The NFL is now up to 35 COVID-19 opt outs.

That's dating back to July 24. That number includes 11 starters, with four of them from the Patriots. 

There will be more opt outs, especially as we hear more positive cases in Major League Baseball. There have been 11 coronavirus postponements since baseball began on July 23. 

It looks like the only entity that will sidestep this virus is the NBA. The strategic planning that the NBA has made will allow them to finish this season and crown a champion. MLB decided to give their players autonomy away from the ballpark and now the league is trying to decide if in fact it will be able to see the finish line. 

That leaves us with the NFL. The Shield had plenty of time to develop a plan and learn from what didn't work. The league even feasted on record TV ratings while commissioner Roger Goodell showed off his basement. 

However, the amount of planning in the NFL has been anything but nuance. This virus is new, which means that there should be new ideas on how to handle it. 

Putting nearly 2,000 players and a host of staff in a bubble is pretty close to impossible for the NFL. But maybe the NFL could have division bubbles. For example, Chicago for the NFC North, Los Angeles for the NFC West, Atlanta for the NFC South and New York City for the NFC East. Think of it as a county seat for each division. Rearrange the schedule so that teams only play division opponents for the first three games. After three games, have teams play the rest of their regular opponents. However, keep the division bubbles for the entire season. That could potentially mean doubleheaders in the same stadium, but if that's the biggest problem, the NFL is doing just fine. 

The NFL has said that it really wants to play in 2020. I totally get that because the league is poised to lose millions if it cannot get a plan in place for kickoff. 

Is this plan a little bit different than what everyone is used to? Well yes. But remember, we are also in the middle of some of the weirdest times ever in the history of sports. 

The answer to all of this is to approach all of this differently. The NBA did and it will likely be rewarded with an NBA champ in a couple months. If the NFL is serious about crowning a Super Bowl champ next February, it cannot continue its status quo. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (20)

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Packers0808's picture

August 01, 2020 at 07:13 am

Hate to say it and being realistic with all the contact in game and locker rooms best to just cancel season as much as I love the game, Packers and to watch and enjoy! Just my take! Players health now and long term is shaky enough why throw this into the mix?

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Guam's picture

August 01, 2020 at 07:47 am

Basketball is a close contact sport and they seem to be doing well so far. Baseball is not a close contact sport and they are not doing well (how many games have already been cancelled?). It would seem the NBA model is certainly the preferred answer to COVID19. It is early in the experiment, but Cory has a valid point to date - the NFL should take a hard look at the NBA model.

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13TimeChamps's picture

August 01, 2020 at 11:45 am

The NBA has played two games so far. Hardly qualifies as a successful 'model'.

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Bear's picture

August 01, 2020 at 03:30 pm

NBA has small rosters.

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Handsback's picture

August 01, 2020 at 08:12 am

I haven't watched an NBA game since forever so hard to say how the games are structured.
There is contact in basketball but not anything like NFL. Can't put 53 x 32 teams in a bubble w/ staff.
Until players willing to play (seems unlikely)with understanding they will get it eventually if they play or might get it if they don't...not seeing a season.
Could see some treatment to take that diminishes their chance of getting it, but again not sure of side effects.
So not seeing a season.

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murf7777's picture

August 01, 2020 at 09:28 am

I originally thought the same thing about COVID more likely to be transmitted in football vs basketball. Now I think it would be BB because there isn’t any equipment, helmets, face guards,etc....in BB and there is constant body to body contact with heavy breathing and yelling as well.

Daily testing with same day or hourly results is imperative for a season to happen. Although with plenty delays, I believe it will happen because of the Billions involved. When in doubt follow the money.

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D.D.Driver's picture

August 01, 2020 at 09:27 am

Let's give it a few weeks. The NFL is aggressively testing and quarantining the exposed/contagious. There is no reason why this shouldn't be pretty effective.

Keep in mind--people forget--even if you cancel the season players will still get sick. (Probably *more* players will get sick if you cancel the season because then you will have a bunch of rich 20-something young men with nothing to keep them busy.)

The only thing the NFL can control is whether individuals transmit the virus *at NFL facilities*. One solution is to shutter those facilities. Another solution is to aggressively screen those that enter the facilities. The NFL is trying the second approach. Let's give it a few weeks to see how it goes.

The constant soon and gloom and fatalism is getting tiring.

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dobber's picture

August 01, 2020 at 01:38 pm

"Keep in mind--people forget--even if you cancel the season players will still get sick."

...but the league will not be potentially LIABLE for those illnesses.

Players will make their own decisions whether they're part of an NFL camp or whether the league cancels its games and players are on their own.

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Bear's picture

August 01, 2020 at 03:36 pm

dobber, I find it hard that the NFL would be LIABLE for the the illnesses as they have no control as to what the players do outside of their work environment. It’s like saying AT&T would be liable for their employees getting COVID 19.

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dobber's picture

August 01, 2020 at 04:56 pm

If there's an outbreak and players can show that the team wasn't following the rules, that's a legal nightmare for the league.

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Since'61's picture

August 01, 2020 at 10:05 am

The issue is not just players becoming infected but the number of players who will opt out. When you combine the opt outs with the players who become infected and then add a normal number of football injuries there will not be many players left.

Replacing all of those players will reduce the quality of play to an unwatchable level.
The key period will be when the teams begin having padded practices with contact. If the infection rate rises at that point it will be a likely indicator of what will happen during actual games.

If one or two teams have multiple infections that will wreak havoc on the schedule especially if games need to be postponed or canceled. The league could actually hurt themselves if they try to play through the season with a decreasing level of play from week to week with a seriously diluted product.

We still have about a month to go before Week 1 but the league’s current approach does not appear to be very well thought out. Thanks, Since ‘61

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dobber's picture

August 01, 2020 at 01:39 pm

"We still have about a month to go before Week 1 but the league’s current approach does not appear to be very well thought out."

It's a plan built from compromise, not from best practices.

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Since'61's picture

August 01, 2020 at 02:22 pm

Excellent point Dobber. Unfortunately as we have already learned this virus doesn’t know or care about compromise. It just transmits very effectively. Thanks, Since ‘61

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flackcatcher's picture

August 01, 2020 at 04:52 pm

Agree with the both of you. The NFL medical protocols seems more built for the lawyers than than anything else. Any system jury rigged like the one the league offices has lashed together, is a failure waiting to happen. Odds of playing this year, slim and none. And slim just left the house (wearing a mask)....

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dobber's picture

August 01, 2020 at 04:58 pm

"And slim just left the house (wearing a mask)..."

...but not covering its nose.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 02, 2020 at 03:22 am

There is a tension between "best medical practices" and having meaningful football practices. It might be possible to have some sort of meaningful but limited football practice while adhering to the best medical practices. I suspect that adhering to the former largely precludes the latter.

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MarkinMadison's picture

August 01, 2020 at 10:48 am

I'm not really sure what Corey meant by "after three games, have them play the rest of their schedule." Chicago has a quarantine requirement for people who have traveled to/from roughly half the states in the nation. That would be a small hurdle for Corey's divisional bubble, it would make any non-divisional/travel games involving Chicago impossible. I can see something along the lines of what Corey is suggesting being made into a workable plan, but I don't see the NFL thinking along those lines at all. I know some don't want to hear doom and gloom, but if some NFL team ends up like the Marlins, and then what is the plan? Play football with half a team? Postpone the game? Cancel? Because as a fan I can say, "no doom and gloom." If I'm getting paid millions to run the NFL I damn well better have a plan.

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Samson's picture

August 01, 2020 at 12:07 pm

You can look at it anyway way you wish... Season 2020 is already heavily tainted. No matter what happens going forward, "Season 2020" will have very little if any legitimacy. --- The record books will have "asterisks" connected to 2020 forever (if it's even worth writing about). --- I'm looking forward (already) to the real NFL in Season 2021.

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blacke00's picture

August 02, 2020 at 07:51 am

I agree with the contention that the season should not start. Just cancel it!

I'm not saying this because of the health and safety of the players and staff. I'm saying it because of the profound hysteria associated with Covid. Looking back on this problem and of course hindsight is 20/20, lockdowns were a big mistake! They really accomplished very little. Many vulnerable have still died. Horrible anxiety among the populace which only causes a "different' type of pain and suffering.

The country is fixated on one disease and ignores other equally serious illnesses. The media has driven this hysteria and is using it as a political "football" (pardon my pun)

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Samson's picture

August 02, 2020 at 10:08 am

World --- > 17 million sick.... > 600,000 dead.
US-------- 4,640,554 sick.... 155,772 dead.
All since the beginning of the year ----- A mere 7 months.

Your attitude of ignorance.... is why this malady continues to aggressively sicken & kill people.

You need to grow up & open your eyes.... You're part of the problem.

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