The Cardinals charter flight to New Jersey departed as scheduled on Friday, two days prior to their game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Or, more accurately, “probably” two days prior to the game, because we’re learning quickly that playing football during a pandemic means the listed kickoff time is always subject to change.
That hit home with the Cardinals Friday morning when news broke that a Jets player had tested positive for COVID-19. Jets coaches and players were sent home as a precaution, and the team announced later in the day the test was a false positive.
Crisis averted and game on, but the time between test results served as a reminder that every plan made in 2020 has come with a qualifier such as “for now,” “so far,” “we’ll see,” and “who the hell knows?”
In the NFL, that lesson has been reinforced over the last week or so.
Two games were postponed. A starting quarterback, Cam Newton of the Patriots, missed a game after testing positive. And players and coaches from one team, the Titans, were sent home and now have been away from their headquarters for 10 days and counting.
The Titans game last week against the Steelers was one of the postponements. Through no fault of their own, the Steelers were deep into their work week when they found out it was going to be counted as their off week.
The Bills-Titans game scheduled for Sunday has been moved to Tuesday, and the Bills-Chiefs game originally scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 15, was pushed back to Sunday, Oct. 18.
The troublesome Titans
Football coaches talk about trust and accountability more than marriage counselors. But there’s a different twist on it 2020.
It’s a time when athletes and coaches are not only accountable to teammates, but also to opponents. Everyone’s health depends upon players from Los Angeles to Buffalo following protocols, and so do the odds of playing an entire 16-game season.
That’s what makes the Titans outbreak so troublesome. According to several reports, the Titans had become remiss in following protocols, such as wearing masks around the facility. That apparently contributed to 23 people in the organization testing positive since Sept. 24.
That contributed to the NFL conducting a conference call Monday with coaches, general managers and other executives to remind them that the protocols work in mitigating the spread of the virus.
“You’re not immune to what’s going on out in the world,” Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said on Thursday. “There have been millions of people who have contracted this virus. The president of the United States and the first lady and many people in the White House have access to the very, very best of the best technology, resources, doctors and precautionary measures, and it wasn’t even good enough to keep them safe.
“The NFL and us players are no different. The NFL has done a great job of doing what they can to mitigate the exposures that we have, but there’s nothing foolproof about this.”
No, there isn’t. But wearing masks and social distancing work, according to doctors scientists.
Representatives from the NFL and players union are investigating. If reports of protocol violations are true, the NFL needs to fine the Titans millions and take away some high future draft picks.
Cardinals doing well, for now
So far, COVID-19 hasn’t impacted the Cardinals season. Only one player, receiver KeeSean Johnson, has been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list, which is for players who have tested positive or have been in close contact with someone infected.
The Cardinals are keeping their guards up, said coach Kliff Kingsbury, who has been more diligent the last two weeks about wearing his mask during games. Players are reminded of protocols daily, Kingsbury said, and head athletic trainer Tom Reed addresses the players weekly.
And in case they need other reminders, players can just look at the televisions in the locker rooms. Over the last week or so, the news crawls at the bottom of the screens often were about players testing positive, or teams, such as the Titans, missing practices and games because of positive tests.
“You wake up every day and somebody else has it,” quarterback Kyler Murray said. “For me, I’m real low key. If I’m not here at practice I’m trying to be in the house as much as possible. I understand the responsibility that I have being the quarterback of this team, if I get it, putting the team in a tough spot.”
As we’ve found out, that wouldn’t just be a tough spot for the Cardinals, but possibly for the entire league.
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