The Who Dat Nation has anxiously waited for good news about the Saints for months since the novel coronavirus pandemic ravaged the world. Now that the 2020 NFL season has begun, Saints fans are still holding their breath for any sign to exhale in support of their team this season. The truth of the matter is, we don't know. The NFL will have a season in 2020 amid COVID-19, but the potential dangers still lurk with this mysterious disease affecting the sports world.
New Orleans Saints’ HC Sean Payton was the first confirmed case of an NFL figure contracting the novel coronavirus. Months after Payton's diagnosis and campaign to alert the public of the virus, COVID-19 cases continued its destructive path in our society.
After the shutdowns, and over 50 NFL players confirmed with coronavirus, the NFL and NFLPA agreed in principle to restart football operations this season. Outside observers and players have expressed concerns with their agreement. The stakes are high in this matter. Why? Mostly because coronavirus cases continue to surge, and there's no remedy for the disease. MLB was forced to postpone/cancel two games of its own because of coronavirus outbreaks inside of two clubhouses. 14 Marlins, 12 players and 2 coaches, tested positive for COVID-19.
Are more cases yet to come in the MLB, NBA, and yes, NFL? Most likely, yes.
Yesterday, New Orleans signed their 2020 NFL Draft Class of C/G Cesar Ruiz, LB Zack Baun, TE Adam Trautman, and QB Tommy Stevens to four-year contracts. Rookies reported to the team's Metairie headquarters for their first round of coronavirus testing. Today, the veterans will do the same. NFL teams, including the Saints, and the league, have developed plans to minimize fans' and players' risk amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, “We have worked collaboratively to develop a complex set of protocols designed to minimize risk for fans, players and club, and league personnel.” The league and Player’s Association consulted with medical directors of the NFL and the NFLPA. The CDC and state and local public health officials reviewed and endorsed the plan.
The NFLPA executive committee, which includes Saints punter Thomas Morstead, Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins and former Saints tight end Ben Watson, voted unanimously for the proposed safety changes intended to protect players. These measures may be costly to the NFL and league owners.
A substantial amount of the league’s revenue is at stake this season, which may affect the Saints and other NFL team’s salary caps for next year. The NFL and NFLPA kept the salary cap for 2020 the same at $198.2 million and set a $175 million floor for the cap in 2021. The NFL 2021 season salary cap may be higher if the NFL's revenue loss is better than originally projected.
NFL players have the option to opt-out of the 2020 season. Here are the details:
- Players can opt-out of the 2020 season, though they must do so by August 3rd.
- According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, there will be two types of opt-outs:
Kansas City Chiefs Lineman Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is the first player to opt-out of the 2020 season. A Cowboys player followed Tardif on Monday.
- Players who are considered “high risk” — meaning they have moderate-to-severe asthma, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, etc. — will receive a $350,000 stipend and will still receive an accrued/credited season.
- Players who are not “high risk” but still want to voluntarily opt-out of the season will receive a $150,000 salary advance, but will not earn an accrued/credited season.
COVID-19's continues to present the potential for dangerous effects on the sports world. Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an NBC News contributor, warned that coronavirus cases continued to escalate as the U.S. began to open schools and universities and begin the return of live sports. She stressed that Science is telling us to plan for high transmissions and outbreaks in highly prevalent transmission areas.
As NFL players return to training camp, here is a look at the safety protocols at the NFL’s chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills talked to Dr. Sanjay Gupta and explored how football can be safe during the pandemic.
It's official. The NFL's new season has begun. Players, coaches, and staff will participate in training camp rituals. The NFL and Saints will be without preseason games because of the coronavirus. The 2020 NFL season is slated for kickoff on September 10th, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will battle the Saints on September 13th. Between now and then, it's business as usual in the National Football League. COVID-19 or not.