NFL needs to adopt the bubble format before it’s too late

(Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images) /

As the Detroit Lions offseason sets to ramp up, the NFL would be wise to change their return to play format amid the lack of success the MLB’s established under a similar arrangement.

Under the direction of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL is excepted to return to play under similar circumstances to the MLB’s flawed format. The Detroit Lions currently have seven players listed on the COVID-19 list, including three highly impactful players.

We’ve seen COVID-19 rage on across the country, particularly in the southern states, although things here in Michigan are not the best as we’ve seen the community take one step forward and then become impatient, promptly taking two steps back.

As the Detroit Lions players started to report to training camp, a plethora of testing begun to take place, and we’ve seen star receiver, Kenny Golladay placed on the COVID-19 list. Also, second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson and slot-corner Justin Coleman both either test positive for the virus or came in close contact with someone who did.

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The Lions also placed depth tight end Isaac Nauta, corner Amani Oruwariye, safety Jalen Elliott, and punter Arryn Siposs on the list.  Players will need to test negative over a five-day span to be removed from the list.  A player that exhibits symptoms automatically will be placed on the list and expected to quarantine for at least ten days, then needs to be symptom-free for 72-hours before returning to the testing protocol.

This is some cause for concern as the players have yet to even be in contact with each other during practice; this comes on the heels of the first round of testing.  We understood there would be positive testing but take the Miami Marlins, for example, in the MLB.

The Marlins have a whopping 21 positive tests over the last couple of days, halting their season.  The St. Louis Cardinals now have multiple positive tests that prompted commissioner Rob Manfred to threaten to shut down the season as early as this Monday.  That, just a week after the season officially began.

The glaring difference from the MLB and both the NHL/NBA return to play plan is the bubble construction.  The NHL and NBA decided to implement a bubble format trying to suppress the virus and lower the chance of an outbreak.  This also is set up to protect the families of anyone who enters the bubble, whether it’s the players, coaching staff, or media members.

The NBA bubble has worked to protect its players thus far as not one player has tested positive since entering.

Major League Baseball decided to resume their season without a bubble allowing teams to travel from city to city, and it’s been nothing but a disaster.  Players need to be held accountable, there have been plenty of reports stating the players are not following the protocols set up by the players association and the league.  But the league officials need to take a look into the mirror as well providing the players with a flawed return to play system.

The NFL needs to take the lack of success the MLB’s endured and make immediate adjustments to their return to play.  The NFL has an opportunity to shorten its season.  A ten-game regular season is better than zero.  The league could also go into four separate bubbles similar to the NHL, who created two bubbles to accommodate the 24 teams taking place in the NHL postseason.

If the NFL decided to shorten its season, they could play games every ten days rather than seven, allowing teams to do more testing before players lock-up in practices and games.

With the Detroit Lions already having seen seven players placed on the list, I can’t help but think things are going to get worse after players start sweating on each other, bleeding on each other and breathing on each other as padded practices and if we make it that far, regular-season games commence.

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The league needs to realize the risk, understand how well the bubble format has worked, and execute it right from the get-go to start the season.