NFL hits new heights of embarrassment as COVID-19 ravages Ravens-Steelers, Broncos' QB situation

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·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·4 min read
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Are you happy, NFL? Are you getting what you want?

We know the answer to this, of course. The NFL, which for our purposes means the billionaire team owners and their bank accounts, is still being paid by the league’s broadcast partners.

It doesn’t matter how many people — players, coaches, staff and their family, and community members — are being needlessly put at risk. As long as the club owners are getting their money, they’re getting what they want.

League-friendly media members are touting that the NFL has gotten to Week 12 without canceling a game. They revel in the novelty that a practice squad receiver will be the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback because the team’s top three quarterbacks were too negligent to wear a piece of cloth over their face while in meetings with a fourth who had tested positive for COVID-19.

The rational among us are just gobsmacked by the complete disregard for doing the right thing and setting the right example.

Across the United States, COVID is raging. It hasn’t just “gone away” as we were insincerely told it would. It has gotten worse. There are about 90,000 people currently hospitalized and that number grows daily, straining medical systems that in some places were already inadequate. In some places, needed surgeries are being canceled, as nurses and doctors are pleading with us to do the right thing, and their calls are being ignored.

But we have NFL games, so it’s all good!

It is not.

Drew Lock and three other Broncos quarterbacks will miss their Week 12 game against the Saints due to a COVID-19 outbreak. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Drew Lock and three other Broncos quarterbacks will miss their Week 12 game against the Saints due to a COVID-19 outbreak. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

The prime-time Thanksgiving game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, which was supposed to be a must-see game of division rivals, now keeps getting incrementally pushed back like a parent-teacher conference impacted by rush-hour traffic. And if it is played on Tuesday night, the Ravens are unlikely to have 53 players in uniform — as of Sunday, they’ll have 22 on the COVID reserve list and 10 more on regular injured reserve, and at the moment they don’t even have five healthy offensive linemen.

That’s really a must-see game, eh? Nothing says huge matchup like one team left barren by a virus spreading through its facility.

The Broncos, meanwhile, were so desperate that they reportedly asked the league if they could sign one of their quality-control coaches to play quarterback after their usual QBs were deemed ineligible.

The reigning MVP is on the COVID-19/reserve list. A cancer survivor playing for a life-altering second contract is on the COVID-19/reserve list.

At least one assistant coach and one player we know of have endured more than one hospitalization because of COVID.

Multiple teams have been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for repeatedly breaking safety rules.

Dozens of players and staff have now tested positive. Some teams have seemingly ignored league rules behind best practices and are now experiencing outbreaks.

Lest we forget, the NBA shut down in mid-March after one player tested positive, and months later finished the season in the safety of a bubble. It was not an ideal situation for many players and coaches, as it was sometimes isolating, but once they gathered in Orlando not a single person tested positive for COVID.

At the time, there was belief that the NFL was at an advantage because it was early in its offseason and had months to plan. In a perfect world, COVID would have been controlled in this country by the usual start of the regular season, as it has been in other nations around the globe. But a federal administration that has abandoned its people and done nothing to mitigate spread, let alone effectively end it, meant the NFL should have been prepared.

Get creative with scheduling. Lengthen the regular season to allow for more bye weeks. Create multiple bubbles to mitigate the risk to players, staff and the community.

And yet here we are.

And the NFL’s posture is to stick its head in the sand and pretend the tornado swirling around it isn’t actually there.

Shutting down all facilities for two days, as the league has mandated for Monday and Tuesday, is nothing but more performative foolishness. It won’t do anything meaningful.

It’s pretty much how the league has approached this entire situation: all performance, nothing meaningful.

As long as those broadcast checks keep rolling in to team owners’ coffers.

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