Michael Bidwill

COVID-19 Latest: JUCO, SEC, Bidwill, Strike

While the JUCO circuit resides several levels away from the NFL, the National Junior College Athletic Association announced a major move Monday. The junior college football season will now take place in the spring, the NJCAA announced. While the Ivy League was the first to postpone its football season, it did not say spring football was a go. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have opted to play conference-only schedules amid the pandemic, but the latter has discussed a move to the spring. Junior colleges playing in the spring will not directly affect the NFL, but it marks the latest big step a football organization has taken amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Monday, the NFL has made no changes to its training camp plan. Most teams are set to open camp to all players July 28, but given the uncertainty the recent coronavirus spikes have caused, it would not surprise if the NFL had to adjust its schedule at some point soon.

Here is the latest from the league’s effort to navigate the pandemic.

  • Despite multiple Power 5 conferences making changes to their schedules, the SEC is holding out. The conference will wait until late July to make a decision on how to proceed with its football season, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said (via Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman, on Twitter). Most states housing SEC schools broke records for coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, with Florida’s Sunday case load (15,300) surpassing all of Europe’s that day.
  • Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill has been released from the hospital, the team announced. Bidwill contracted the coronavirus and spent time at a Newport, R.I., hospital. The 55-year-old owner has not been in face-to-face contact with Cardinals coaches or players since the pandemic began.
  • A few key issues loom before the NFL and NFLPA can sign off on a return-to-work edict — the 2021 salary cap, the preseason slate, testing and opt-out protocols being among the main hurdles to clear — but Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets bonuses are also a sticking point. Players are concerned in-season COVID-19 contractions will result in missed money from per-game roster bonuses, and Pauline adds the NFL and NFLPA are discussing that matter. Players who contract the virus in-season would miss at least a game and possibly more, given the various quarantine policies the NFL has unveiled.
  • During Friday’s NFLPA meeting multiple questions emerged regarding a strike, per veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson (on Twitter). This pertained to players’ concerns about being asked to return to work without the NFL providing concrete COVID answers. However, the NFLPA will not opt to strike, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. A strike would give the league the opportunity to pull the plug on the recently agreed-upon CBA, which was sent out for a vote before the pandemic changed the league’s financial standing. While the league believes it can unilaterally implement training camp rules, Florio adds that it is working with the NFLPA to avoid a grievance from the players’ side.

Cardinals Owner Michael Bidwill Tests Positive For COVID-19

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill has tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced.

Bidwill is the first of the NFL owners known to have contracted the coronavirus. He was hospitalized recently. However, the 55-year-old owner’s symptoms have subsided, according to the team. Bidwill is expected to be released from the hospital this weekend.

The team believes a weeks-long stay on the East Coast resulted in Bidwill contracting the virus. Bidwill, who is in a Rhode Island hospital (per Katherine Fitzgerald of the Arizona Republic), has not had any contact with Cardinals coaches or players since the virtual offseason began.

Bidwill joins Sean Payton, Von Miller and Ezekiel Elliott as high-profile NFL figures who have contracted COVID-19. As of mid-June, around 10 teams had seen a positive coronavirus case. Given the spikes occurring in most states since then, that number may well be higher as we enter mid-July. Teams remain on track to report to training camp July 28, though several key issues remain unresolved.

Joining the family-owned organization in 1996, Bidwill has run the Cardinals since 2007. His father, Bill Bidwill, died in October 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.