NFL players can’t hold themselves accountable and that will be a problem

Despite what Miami Dolphins defensive back Bobby McCain thinks, players in the NFL are incapable of policing themselves.

In April, Dallas Cowboys quarterback and NFL star Dak Prescott hosted a party that he claims didn’t violate the ten-person occupancy rules in place at the time (although the limited video leaked to the world showed at least 6 people and more food than 10 people could possibly eat.)  His teammate running back Ezekiel Elliott was among those in attendance.

Less than two months later, Elliott tested positive for the virus.  Since it’s unlikely that he contracted it at that party, it does show that a player that engages in ‘risky behavior’ once, likely did it again.

Fast forward approximately another two months.

  • At least 19 Marlins players tested positive for Coronavirus; reportedly after several players went out partying in Atlanta.
  • The Phillies, who played the Marlins before the ‘outbreak’ was detected, had to postpone multiple games after a couple of members of their organization tested positive.
  • At the time of this article, the St. Louis Cardinals haven’t played a game in over a week because at least four members of their team have tested positive.

Why am I giving you this little history lesson?

Bobby McCain recently lamented what it will take for the NFL to start, and complete, its 2020 season.

“You’ve got to hold your brothers accountable, as far as stepping out and going to dinner with a lot of people, going to nightclubs, going to bars, being with different women,” McCain told the media Saturday, via The Athletic’s Josh Tolentino. “Whatever you bring home, you’re bringing to the family. It’s definitely going to take a lot of discipline.”

It takes a lot of hard work and discipline to become a professional athlete.  With all due respect to McCain, however, that does not mean that those same athletes have the needed discipline to make smart choices.

The measures established by the NFL and NFLPA looked too much like the ones implemented by MLB; and we see how that is turning out.

Here are the five steps that the league and players need to implement immediately if they want to save their season.

1.  Isolate players in contained locations for the entire season.

Whether this means setting up temporary housing within the stadium or renting out an entire hotel, the NFL needs to insulate its players from the disease-ravaged world surrounding them.  (Especially in ‘hot spots’ like California, Texas, and Florida.)

I can hear both the owners and players ‘balking’ at this idea already.  The owners don’t want the added expense but they need to realize that they stand to lose a lot more money if the season gets shut down than they would if they set up 32 ‘little bubbles’.

As for the players, the biggest/most common complaint the players would have to this idea is being separated from their families.  In this scenario, the players/coaches could bring their families with them.

As for the safety of the players and their families, that brings us to the second step.

2.  Quarantine players/families for two weeks.

Before the team bubbles can be considered ‘secure’, there would be an isolation period where there would be limited contact between teammates for the first two weeks.  During that time, daily testing can be administered to minimize the chances that a team-wide outbreak occurs.

Will it be inconvenient and tedious?  Yes, but it’s a small price to pay in the long run to not be separated from your family for the next 4-5 months.

Once the initial two weeks have passed, any players/coaches or family that have tested positive will continue to be isolated until they have negative tests for three consecutive days.  The rest are free to socialize amongst themselves and training camp can begin.  (The frequency of testing during the regular season is open to negotiation between players and owners.)

3.  The season is shortened to 12 games.

Each team in the NFL players their division foes twice, as usual, one game against whichever division they were supposed to face this year and one game against each team from the other divisions that finished last year in the same place in their respective divisions.  For example:

  • Dolphins will play the Patriots, Bills, and Jets twice.
  • Each AFC West team once.
  • Bengals and Jaguars (Both teams finished 4th in their division last year as Miami did.)

You will notice that the only games that are eliminated are the games versus the other conference.  This ensures that if for some reason, a virus outbreak does occur, it won’t ravage the entire league.  (Extra precautions will be needed in NY and LA, of course.)

With the season being shortened, there will now be three bye weeks (after weeks 4, 8, and 12) to accommodate any possible ‘makeup games’ that need to be played.

Finally, one conference will start their season one week before the other so the league gets TV money for 13 weeks.  There will be no Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl will be played two weeks after whichever conference finishes their season last.

4.  Leaving containment for “family emergency” requires two-week quarantine.

Inevitably, personal issues will arise with players and/or coaches during the course of the season.  Any player that needs to leave for some kind of “family emergency” will be required to undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine upon his return to the team.  After two weeks, if the player has tested negative, he is able to rejoin the team unless…..

5.  Any nonauthorized activity by player/coach/family will result in immediate expulsion.

There will be a “zero tolerance” policy if someone leaves the hotel/facility or attempts to ‘sneak’ someone in.  This policy also includes no “risky behavior” during an approved absence; including the pick up of chicken wings at “Magic City” strip club (henceforth referred to as the “Lou Williams clause”).

There you have it.  If the NFL has any hope of completing their season, they can’t leave it up to the players/coaches to police themselves.  The last few months have shown us that, while athletes/coaches required discipline/dedication to get this far, they can’t be relied on to show the discipline necessary to keep the COVID virus from wreaking havoc on the season.