GOAL LINE STAND – DECEMBER 18
By Leo Haggerty

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN

To coin a phrase from the late, and great, Hall of Fame catcher and manager Yogi Berra, ” It’s deja vu all over again” when it comes to Covid.

On Thursday, the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association issued a joint statement updating the current protocols as it applies to Covid-19 as well as the new Omicron variant.  This was in lieu of the fact that over 100 new positive cases have erupted through the league forcing seven teams to immediately convert to remote practices especially targeting Cleveland and Washington along with the Los Angeles Rams.

The memo stated that, “Throughout the pandemic we have continuously evolved our protocols to meet our goal of advancing the safety of the players, coaches and staff. The changes we are making today aim to address the increase in cases and advent of the Omicron variant. Effective immediately, all clubs will implement preventative measures that have proven effective: masking regardless of vaccination status, remote or outdoor meetings, eliminating in-person meals, and no outside visitors while on team travel.

It reiterated that, “We will continue to strongly encourage booster shots as the most effective protection. Finally, and based on expert advance, we will adjust the return-to-participation requirements for those who have recovered from COVID-19. All of these changes are grounded in our data and science-backed approach, with safety our number-one goal for the entire NFL community.”

The most important part of the communique, as it applies to the players, pertains to “testing out” of quarantine.  There are now more ways for fully vaccinated individuals to come off the reserve list, which is the most important update as it relates to getting back on the gridiron.  Though the numerous paths for return are extremely technical, the common thread throughout all avenues to return will be that  individuals have to be asymptomatic for at least 24 hours before any of those options could start going into motion.

In my humble opinion, with all that being said, it’s imperative that the NFL and the NFLPA find some common ground to make sure that “The Shield” is not forced to shut down completely.  The only way this can be accomplished is if the NFL looks at this issue from both the ownership as well as the players perspective.

Ownership wants to make sure that every player is tested to the highest degree of safety.  The worst case scenario that could happen, in the minds of the 32 owners along with Commissioner Roger Goodell and his staff, is for a player to contract Covid and have to be hospitalized or, even worse, die.  That tragedy would bring such an outcry of negative public opinion that the league may not recover from for an extended period of time.  Not what the folks at 345 Park Avenue in New York want to have to deal with to say the least.

Now, the players point of view is a tad bit different.  They want the rigid testing that has accompanied Covid to be dialed back to a reasonable standard.  From the information I have been able to uncover, it seems that the players are being tested at a higher level than your average American and that is causing some consternation with the employees to say the least.  Some players, like Browns QB Baker Mayfield who has tested positive for Covid and has been totally asymptomatic, have come out publicly expressing that same argument.  Players do not want to be held out due to what they consider to be the flu.

Look for a compromise to be reached on this issue.  It the only reasonable way to proceed but, above all, it’s the right way to proceed.  Let’s move on safely and prudently but lets move on not out fear of the unknown but of the known.