Despite skyrocketing COVID-19 numbers nationwide, the NFL’s stance remains that postseason games will occur at team venues. Although no final decision has surfaced, NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills and union president J.C. Tretter providing anti-bubble statements provides a good indication no one- or two-site postseason will commence. This pours cold water on an in-case-of-emergency bubble scenario the league was considering last month. But no real bubble momentum has emerged since the pandemic began.
“There’s not magic about a bubble. In fact, there’s the same challenges within a bubble. Let’s be clear: COVID-19 does not fear a bubble,” Tretter said. “The vulnerability inside a bubble is the same, which is full compliance of protocol at all times. We believe that it’s all about compliance, and compliance with the things that we know avoid risk is important, whether you’re all together in an isolated environment, or whether you’re in your community.
“It’s all about the daily measures that work — mask-wearing, avoidance of sick individuals, rapid reporting of symptoms, good hand hygiene, physical distance, avoiding those high-risk exposures. Those principles won’t change.”
The NBA’s Orlando bubble produced zero positive COVID tests for several weeks, however, and Major League Baseball’s multi-site bubble setup did not produce a positive case until the Justin Turner saga in Game 6 of the World Series. While the NFL has bulked up its coronavirus protocols as the season has progressed, the league going without a postseason bubble stands to bring greater chances star players miss playoff games — especially with the coronavirus environment having changed since the NBA and MLB postseasons.
Here is the latest from the virus front:
- The Ravens are steadily seeing players return to work after testing positive for the virus. The team activated Mark Andrews and Matt Judon from its reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, putting both starters in line to face the Browns on Monday night. Both players missed two Baltimore games.
- Ditto for James Conner. After missing the past two Steelers games, Conner is back on Pittsburgh’s active roster after his positive virus test.
- The Panthers placed eight players on their virus list earlier this week but have since moved one of them back to their active roster. While it is unknown which members of that octet are COVID-positive, Greg Little is not. The Panthers removed the second-year tackle from their virus list Wednesday.
- Chargers starting tackle Trey Pipkins is back on the virus list. The Bolts placed the second-year blocker on their list for the second time this season. Because he was identified as a close contact of then-COVID-positive center Ryan Groy, Pipkins landed on Los Angeles’ virus list for one day in late October.
- The NFL is proceeding as if a vaccine will not be available to its players and staff this season. Although multiple vaccines are in the final stages, Sills and the NFLPA concur players should not be receiving vaccines at the same juncture that front-line workers or at-risk members of the population will, Twitter links via the Washington Post’s Mark Maske and SI.com’s Albert Breer. Vaccines, however, figure to have a massive impact on the 2021 season.