Navigating Football Through COVID-19
Mark Van Sickle
The Kansas City Chiefs are reigning Super Bowl Champions. February 2, 2020 was one of the greatest days in Kansas City sports history. It was also the last day America had any semblance of a sports championship.
March Madness was canceled. There was no College World Series. The NBA was postponed near the end of their regular season and hasn’t yet resumed. Opening Day for Major League Baseball has been delayed. Football was the last sport that gave us a sense of normalcy. We will forever look through the lens of BC-19 (Before COVID-19) and AC-19 (After COVID-19). Right now, we are still in the middle of this pandemic, but for the sake of trying to keep things positive, I’m going to assume the football season will start in September.
How will this strange offseason affect the Chiefs as they enter into a year where they are trying to repeat?
The good news for the Chiefs is they are returning 20 of 22 starters from their Championship squad. Due to COVID-19, teams were not able to bring in free agents at the rate they typically would have been able to in a normal offseason. The Chiefs were not widely expected to retain guys like wide receivers Sammy Watkins and DeMarcus Robinson, defensive tackle Mike Pennel, or cornerback Bashaud Breeland. However, it worked out in their favor to retain all of these pieces of their 2019 campaign and make the effort to run it back.
Another positive for the Chiefs is the fact that, around the league, teams have had minimal team workouts this offseason. To this point, workouts have been virtual with select teammates training together. This can be a huge advantage for the Chiefs who will have a majority of their team intact for a run at another Super Bowl. Knowing what is expected of them and having the timing and team chemistry that other teams may not possess will give the Chiefs an edge heading into the 2020 season.
On the flip side, the Chiefs' rookies will be a step behind. However, the entire league has been dealt the same hand, so that won’t be an advantage or disadvantage from one team to the next. It will be interesting to see how training camp and preseason will utilize rookies compared to previous seasons. Coaches may want to get more reps for the younger guys to get them up to speed. There is also a chance that rosters could be expanded for this season due to COVID-19, which could help ease the rookies into their roles.
There is one big hole that the Chiefs may not be able to fill once the season gets underway. There is a chance there will not be fans allowed in the stands. The more optimistic goal is for fans to attend games at a limited capacity depending on the guidelines of the local government at that time. As things currently stand today, it does not seem very likely we will get to see a sold-out, full capacity crowd at Arrowhead for the 2020 season. This would be a big blow to the Chiefs' home-field advantage. The gameday experience at Arrowhead is unlike any other, from tailgating to the sea of red and their deafening roars when an opposing team’s offense takes the field. The Chiefs' players feed off the crowd, and fans in attendance can make a difference in the outcome of a game.
COVID-19 has been a worldwide disaster. There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding this virus as it hits close to home. Let’s hope football can return this fall to help us escape and unite for a few hours each week when our favorite team takes the field.