NFL

Coronavirus: Chief medical officer says NFL will be ‘flexible and adaptable’ after Fauci casts doubts over season

By Sports Desk June 18, 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci is not convinced there will be a 2020 NFL season the way it is currently scheduled with the coronavirus pandemic still prevalent.

The NFL's chief medical officer, however, says the league could alter the way it is planned. 

Players are scheduled to arrive in training camps in another month, and the season is set to kick off on September 10, with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.

The season is then set to proceed with the normal travel schedule as all games are slated to take place in each team’s own stadiums without fans.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is not sold on that plan. 

"Unless players are essentially in a bubble - insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day - it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall," Fauci said Thursday on CNN. 

"If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year."

The NBA is resuming with a “bubble” of 22 teams converging on the Walt Disney Resort near Orlando next month. All games will be played there, and the players will be tested regularly and must adhere to strict physical distancing and mask-wearing policies. 

NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills responded to Fauci’s comments later on Thursday, saying the league is addressing tsafety concerns and is open to changes. 

"Dr. Fauci has identified the important health and safety issues we and the NFL Players Association, together with our joint medical advisors, are addressing to mitigate the health risk to players, coaches, and other essential personnel," Sills said in a statement. 

"Make no mistake, this is no easy task. We will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season as scheduled with increased protocols and safety measures for all players, personnel, and attendees. We will be flexible and adaptable in this environment to adjust to the virus as needed."

One major obstacle for the NFL is dealing with the spread of the coronavirus within a sport that involves constant contact among humans. Sills acknowledged last month that with all the physical contact, there will be positive tests of COVID-19 among players. 

Both Fauci and Sills' remarks came one day after Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson became the latest NFL player to test positive for the coronavirus. 

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    The NBA is deep into the Conference finals behind closed doors inside the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort after the 2019-20 campaign resumed in July, having been suspended in March due to COVID-19.

    A December tip-off for the new season was tentatively flagged previously but Silver said the league is set to be pushed back to January.

    "My best guess is even though it'll be the 2020-21 season, that the season won't start until 2021," Silver told CNN.

    "We said the earliest we would start is Christmas of this year. But the more I'm learning and listening to Dr. Anthony Fauci [head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases] this morning, I continue to believe we're going to be better off going into January. The goal for us next season is to play a standard season.

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    A January start date could clash with the rescheduled Olympic Games in Japan, where the United States will defend their gold medal.

    The Tokyo Games are due to be held between July 23 and August 8 and Silver added: "There are a lot of great U.S. players, and we may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren't competing in the Olympics, but other great American players are competing.

    "And, obviously, there are many NBA players who participate in the Olympics for other countries. That's something we're going to have to work through."

    "These are highly unique and unusual circumstances," Silver said. "And I think just as it is for the Olympic movement, it is for us as well. And we're just going to have to sort of find a way to meld and mesh those two competing considerations."

  • Gruden 'doing my best' with facemask as three NFL coaches fined Gruden 'doing my best' with facemask as three NFL coaches fined

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    Gruden and New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton were each pictured not wearing masks during the Raiders' 34-24 victory on Monday.

    NFL Network reported that San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Denver Broncos boss Vic Fangio had all been handed fines for violating rules regarding wearing face masks during Sunday's action.

    Each coach has been fined $100,000, with their respective teams docked $250,000.

    It appears a similar punishment awaits both Gruden and Payton but the Raiders head coach appears willing to pay the price. 

    "I'm doing my best. You know, I've had the virus, okay. I'm doing my best," Gruden said in a media conference. "I'm very sensitive about it, but I'm calling plays.

    "I just want to communicate in these situations and I apologise and if I get fined, I will have to pay the fine, but I'm very sensitive about all of that and I apologise."

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    The 41-year-old quarterback is in his 20th season in the NFL but he failed to shine at Allegiant Stadium on Monday, finishing with 312 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 26 of 38 completed passes.

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    "Well, my job is to execute the offense," he said, having seen opposite number Derek Carr chalk up three TDs. "My job's not to have the most air yards or throw the ball down the field most or anything like that.

    "I think I've always evaluated myself on being a great decision-maker. And so, at the end of the day, I'll throw the ball to the open guy, move the ball down the field, score points, help us win football games. So that's my job.

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    The interception Brees threw came at a pivotal moment, with the Raiders capitalising to score a field goal that levelled the scores just before half-time.

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    "Are we totally in sync right now? No, we're not. We're not even close to where we are capable of. Not even close," said Brees.

    "We did some good things early on, but it just wasn't enough for the few opportunities that we had. Again, I think we just need to be more efficient.

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    "But I think both of those [resulted in completions for about 10 yards]. At the end of the day, our job is to move the ball and score points, however we have to do that."

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