As the NFL gets closer and closer to the beginning of the 2020 season and training camps begin to open, the question of how the league can make sure the season goes off without any issues due to the Coronavirus continue to be raised. It begs a question to be asked: Will there be an NFL Bubble?
One option, that the NBA and NHL have adopted to a lot of success, is a bubble, where all players and personnel are sequestered into a single area in order to keep them isolated from the general public.
For the NBA and NHL it was pretty simple to do, but the NFL is a different beast altogether. There are a lot of issues those two leagues don’t have to worry about that the NFL will have to. Here are just a few.
Not only would the NFL have to contend with where to set up the bubbles and how many they would have, but also playing field issues. Let’s say they have four bubbles, one for each division. That’s eight teams per bubble, which would result in four games each week, excluding byes.
Assuming they only use one venue, which is very likely since there aren’t many NFL caliber venues within a short distance of each other (maybe the LA area for the West, but that’s it), that would mean that there would be four games on one playing field each week. Even if the NFL expands the schedule and has games each week on both Saturdays and Sundays (not even taking into consideration how to handle Thursday and Monday Night Football) that would be two games a day on each field and less than 24 hours between the two games on separate days.
This is not baseball, where the wear and tear a field takes in a game is minimal. Nor is it basketball, where there is no real wear on the court. Football creates a lot of turf problems, even on artificial turf, which would need to be addressed if bubbles were implemented. While not inconceivable, these issues would need to be resolved and the solutions be airtight, lest there be major issues. Nobody wants to see a star player go down due to a less than perfect playing surface.
Another issue the NFL has to figure out is where to house all of the players and staff in each bubble. This is not like Disney, where the NBA has an enclosed campus where nobody else is allowed within the bubble. The NFL would need to find secluded hotels and facilities to house the players and ensure that they are secure and the policies are airtight.
Another issues is the shear amount of personnel you are dealing with for the NFL as compared to any other sport. The players alone, 53 in total, eclipse the numbers of any of the other sports overall. The NBA only has at most 15 players, and with staff only numbering around 30 at most. Multiply that by eight and you’re looking at having to host over 600 personnel in one city.
This one goes along with the accommodations and the shear scale of the league. The NBA has their “Snitch Phone” as a way to hold players accountable for their actions. While this is a good move, it’s also a lot easier for the NBA to know this will work due to the limited personnel.
The NFL has a much bigger issue on their hands. The league has to figure out how to make sure that players abide by the rules. To keep themselves safe while not able to directly control every player’s action. Moreover, while without having as much control as the NBA due to not being sequestered in a fully enclosed bubble. In order for the NFL bubble to be successful, they would need to figure out a solution to how to maintain control over the players and everything that goes on within that bubble.
Will there be an NFL Bubble
While it is not inconceivable for the NFL to create multiple bubbles, it would be a much bigger endeavor for them than it would for any other sport due to the amount of people involved. This difficult endeavor, however, may be the only way for football to have a chance of playing in the fall of 2020 amidst a pandemic that is threatening Major League Baseball with a shutdown only a week into the season. The time is ticking for the NFL to come up with a plan.