Patriots and National Football League writers believe the status of the NFL is questionable at best going forward due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After 18 Tennessee Titans players and staffers tested positive over a span of eight days, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive Friday. The Titans-Steelers game has been postponed to Week 7, and the Patriots-Chiefs game – which was originally slated for Sunday at 4:25 p.m. – will likely be played this Monday or Tuesday, if it happens at all this week.
Experts believe playing this week wouldn’t be wise.
“Moving the game to Monday or Tuesday is wishful thinking,” Boston Herald reporter Karen Guregian wrote Saturday. “Actually, more like stupid. It should have automatically been pushed back to a later date – like Week 18.”
Guregian acknowledged there doesn’t seem to be a perfect plan, and she said the idea of a bubble is unrealistic, but she criticized the NFL for not having a built-in plan to incorporate more bye weeks into the schedule.
She believes the league will need to shut down at some point to at least have a chance to have a somewhat normal season and playoffs.
“At some point, perhaps even now, the NFL needs to put the brakes on and hit the pause button,” Guregian said. “They need to suspend the schedule for two to four weeks, and re-establish a baseline with no cases.”
Patriots Hall of Famer Rodney Harrison told Guregian that there’s a chance the season could be in jeopardy, adding that he “would be very nervous” if he were the NFL.
Harrison suggested making it a 12-game season, noting that the league has its hand full during a very difficult situation.
“The NFL definitely has something to worry about,” Harrison told Guregian. “And especially guys getting relaxed. As the season has wore on, I think guys might have gotten more relaxed. And it’s not like the league hasn’t tried to stay on top of it. You saw the memo for coaches about not wearing masks (on the sideline).”
— NFL (@NFL) October 3, 2020
The Boston Globe‘s Ben Volin echoed Guregian’s point that the status of the season is in jeopardy. Volin said fans shouldn’t plan big life events around the NFL and shouldn’t worry too much about their fantasy team or who’s going to win the Super Bowl.
Volin said football is currently a fun diversion from the reality of the situation but that fans shouldn’t bank on that diversion lasting until February.
“It’s all tenuous at best, given the current realities of the coronavirus pandemic,” Volin wrote.
Volin said trying to squeeze Patriots-Chiefs in this week would be “incredibly risky” because the incubation period for COVID-19 can last up to seven days. He called it “a miracle” that it’s taken so long for COVID-19 to wreck the schedule. That good fortunate, however, appears to be over.
He agreed with Guregian that a bubble isn’t feasible, and he encouraged the NFL to tighten up its testing procedures to minimize lags between testing and results.
NBC Sports Boston reporter Tom Curran wrote that the NFL’s plan to play the Patriots-Chiefs game Monday or Tuesday is “aggressive and probably too optimistic.” Curran expects that playing the game could lead to a repeat of what happened with the Titans, who flew to Minnesota, flew back and exposed more people in the process.
Curran believes the NFL and the Patriots have a responsibility to hit the pause button and understand the full scope of the situation before playing.
“This is where, in my opinion, the league has a civic responsibility to exercise that ‘abundance of caution’ we’ve been hearing so much about since March,” Curran said.
Statement from the New England Patriots. pic.twitter.com/eSTUukh5vl
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 3, 2020
Sports Illustrated writer Conor Orr said “the sensible thing would be to take a break” in response to these two ongoing, problematic situations. Orr wrote that the league should “take the prudent step” of halting operations and and waiting out what seems like another inevitable wave of the virus working its way through the country.
Orr wondered why the NFL is content with the continued dilution of the product for the sake of throwing results on the board.
“Taking a break before this surge winds its way through the rest of the NFL is sensible and still awards the NFL credit for jumping on a simmering issue before it becomes a full-blown disaster,” Orr wrote. “Of course, like the rest of the leagues the NFL had the fortune of waiting out, no one else decided to choose sensibility and pragmatism, so why should they?”
Get Boston.com's browser alerts:
Enable breaking news notifications straight to your internet browser.