Covid-19 Variants will randomize football outcomes
Putting aside for the moment the issues about vaccinated versus unvaccinated players, the Covid-19 Delta variant is going to mess with the NFL this season.
I’m not a doctor, but I can read a graph, and in the state of Ohio, the number of new cases is doubling every two weeks. As of September 5, the number of new cases is about 7,000 per day. At its peak back in December 2020 in Ohio, we were seeing about 11,000 new cases per day. So as football season begins, we will once again be at peak Covid incidence.
How does this affect NFL teams including the Browns? Vaccines were not available last season, meaning that by October We are all going to get Covid-19. Those of us who have had vaccines will have milder symptoms, while those who elected to not get vaccinated are going to generally get much more severe symptoms
It’s essentially random, and random outcomes favor the bad, poorly prepared teams more than the good teams.
The 2021 rules have eased somewhat due to the presence of vaccines. If a vaccinated NFL player tests positive and is asymptomatic, he or she will be isolated and contact tracing will promptly occur. The positive individual will be permitted to return to duty after two negative tests at least 24-hours apart and will thereafter be tested every two weeks or as directed by the medical staff.
Okay, in the case of a vaccinated person, it looks like there is still a substantial chance, like over 30% according to at least one study, that a person can catch the Delta variant and test positive, even if the symptoms are mild or nonexistent. A football player may feel fine, but could still be knocked out of the game.
It may take a few days for the virus to clear, and then by rule, there must be two consecutive negative tests 24 hours apart, so a few days to a week out of action. A key point is that if the player is vaccinated, they do not have to isolate just because they were exposed. Hence there is not going to be a situation like last year in which the entire wide receiver room was taken out by simple exposure even though not everyone actually carried the virus.
If there are players who are unvaccinated, the consequences are more significant. They have to stay isolated for 10 days, and then produce negative tests over a three-day period. If an unvaccinated person has substantial contact with a person that tests positive, that unvaccinated person must still quarantine for five days. That’s how you take out an entire room full of football players for a week.
There will still be individual players who go on the Covid list but the truly bizarre situations like last season, in which the entire receiver corps was knocked out of a game versus due to contact tracing, are more easily avoidable, or when the Denver Broncos had to play a game with no quarterback against the Saints last season. They promoted a backup wide receiver from the practice squad.
Nevertheless, Covid situations are unpredictable and disruptive. That makes it difficult for teams to either dominate the NFL or lose all their games, either way. This stuff randomizes outcomes and pushes teams toward the middle.
As a team, the Browns don’t take Covid and Delta Variant very seriously. Some of their stars believe that they are immune because of their athletic ability. Maybe they are, but if there were a proposition bet, I would bet that they get Delta Variant. It’s contagious. If you are vaccinated the symptoms will probably be manageable. If you are unvaccinated, the symptoms may be more severe.
The Browns are not one of the teams that are 100% vaccinated. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are at 100% and so are the Atlanta Falcons. For whatever reason, the NFL League policy has chosen to respect the players’ right to choose their vaccination status, out of respect for the nationwide controversy. There is no league-wide rule that requires players to be vaccinated, while at the same time they promise to allow teams to forfeit games if they cannot play due to infection.
What’s being debated at present is whether teams have the right to consider vaccination status as part of their valuation for player employment. Oh, no! It’s a personal decision! And if the player cannot play and causes the team to forfeit a game you had better just smile and accept it.
This of course is totally hypocritical.
What teams need to be doing is to prepare. That’s why they have 16 players on the practice team. Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Josh McCown to the practice squad and kept him in another state to make sure he would not be affected by a Covid outbreak in Philadelphia. Teams should also be cross-training players to play extra positions.
Maybe they can find a Mike Furrey for the 2009 Browns. Not that he was a superstar, but at least he did it. He played wide receiver and defensive back. It may come to that sooner rather than later.
What we need to know as fans is that games are going to be disrupted this season due to Covid-19. Vaccination will lessen the impact, but it is still going to be a mess, and teams are not really prepared for it.
I’m planning on enjoying each football game, but I’m not going to be shocked if the Browns are short-handed and drop a game or two due to Covid.
It would be a shame if that decided who gets into the playoffs, but that’s football.
We may as well accept that going in. Football, like life, is not always fair and does not always proceed according to plan. It’s not for the faint-hearted.