NFL badly missteps in refusing to reschedule the Lions-Buccaneers game

Jeff Risdon
·3 min read

The show must go on. No matter if the show stinks to high heaven of blatant favoritism and impropriety.

That’s the message the NFL sent on Christmas Eve in refusing to move the Detroit Lions matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from its regularly scheduled Saturday afternoon kickoff.

Never mind that much of the Lions coaching staff, including interim head coach Darrell Bevell, will not be available due to COVID-19 protocols. Never mind that it’s an odd Saturday game that can easily be moved to Sunday. Never mind that all the coaches who are banned from coaching on Saturday would be 100 percent available on Sunday.

Nope. None of that matters to the NFL. Apparently, Detroit doesn’t matter to the NFL either. That’s the only possible conclusion that can be drawn from the NFL’s obstinance in forcing them to play shorthanded.

The Baltimore Ravens experienced far more rampant COVID-19 issues earlier this year, and the source was an internal employee who repeatedly ignored the mandated protocols. So what happens to Baltimore?

Games–plural–are rescheduled so the Ravens have a chance to compete. Bye weeks are thrown around. Baltimore wound up playing a game on a Wednesday, a game that the Pittsburgh Steelers still haven’t recovered from weeks later.

The NFL bent over backward to ensure that reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens got as much latitude as possible to cover their own willful violations of the COVID-19 protocols. Baltimore had dozens of players and coaches test positive. Detroit has no players infected, no coaches infected, just exposed. The Lions ask for 24 hours to move the game to a normal kickoff time, and the NFL claps back with a stern refusal.

Do you think if the COVID-19 situation in this matchup was on the other side of the ball that the NFL wouldn’t move it? Let’s say Bruce Arians and his staff were unavailable on Saturday but could coach on Sunday. Does anyone really believe that the NFL would hold fast and firm that the game must be played on Saturday? What if it was Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

This isn’t about the Lions having a chance to win spoiled. Even with a full coaching staff and every injured player available they probably wouldn’t sniff a victory against the Buccaneers. That’s obscuring the larger point.

The NFL playing favorites with their franchises is not a healthy way to run a league. It is a slap in the face to the loyal Detroit fans who will open gifts containing Lions merchandise and proudly wear it while watching a game. It’s a complicit sham that directly impacts the other teams in the NFC playoff picture. You think the Rams or Cardinals or Bears are happy about the NFL giving the Bucs a massive break in the middle of a hotly contested Wild Card race?

All because they won’t acquiesce to common sense or the concept of the playing field being fair. Shame on you, Commissioner Roger Goodell. And shame on those who enabled this terrible decision.