The Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak puts NFL protocols under spotlight

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I don’t really know what’s coming the next six months. And neither do you. So I think it’s pretty silly for anyone to be talking about absolutes right now. With that, here we go, with the first MAQB of training camp 2020 …

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• Because of the Marlins’ outbreak, the national sports discussion turned on Monday to bubble-vs.-no bubble. Baseball doesn’t have one. Basketball and hockey do. So where does that leave the NFL? Back in the spring, as it became clear that offseason workouts would be wiped out, all options were being discussed. I’m told the players were against the bubble idea then, as was NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills. And teams I talked to on Monday about the idea were pretty skeptical that any such concept would get off the ground anyway. Why? Football is far different from the other sports. To run a training camp practice, a team needs a minimum of 150 people on hand, and the figure is still well over 100 after rosters are cut down. So for the whole league to be in a bubble, you’re probably talking in excess of 4,000 people minimum—and that’d be for over six months. Could you go to an Olympic-style group-play format, maybe, and create four pods? Maybe. But that’s still over 1,000 people per bubble, not to mention the number of NFL-caliber fields you’d need for the players (you can lay down a basketball court almost anywhere, as the NBA has proven) in a central location. And that’s without even getting to matter of injuries, which would always require players being shuttled on to and off of rosters. So in the end, would a bubble solve a lot of the issues the NFL is facing? Yup, it sure would. But you’d have to build one (or more than one) first, and the sport just isn’t conducive to that.

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