NFL Considering Using “Secure Environment” to Protect Teams Come Playoff Time
In this, the year 2020, we all live in constant reminder of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Most states, and indeed many counties/cities, have ordinances in place that require face covering to enter any businesses. States are still debating on the practicality of sending children back to school environments, places where any parent will tell you, diseases spread faster than gossip.
The state of the world has changed so much that the one thing that has seemed to remain constant in America’s modern history, sports, have even been disrupted. Rarely do we see any time in a professional sports league lost for any reason. In 2015, the Orioles and White Sox played a game to zero fans following civil unrest in the city of Baltimore in response to the death of Freddy Gray, who died in police custody. Now, playing to zero fans is the norm, but that didn’t come until after both the NBA and NHL cancelled the remainder of their seasons and the MLB postponed theirs until protocols to control the disease were put in place.
All three of those professional leagues have resumed play, with the NBA and NHL skipping straight to newly formatted playoffs in quarantine “bubbles.” These bubbles have seemed to work well, even in sports like basketball and hockey where players are often engaged physically with each other and obviously within the recommended six foot social distance.
So, what is the NFL planning to do? Well, the idea of “bubbles” for the entire season was thrown out as impractical as teams would need to live in said bubbles for at least six months. Instead, teams have adopted very strict protocols around facilities, with players being disciplined for taking risks. The Seattle Seahawks already cut one of their undrafted free agents following his trying to sneak a woman into the team’s hotel.
The league has however toyed with the idea of adopting the idea of playoff bubbles for when that time comes, according to executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent. “We didn’t use the term ‘bubble,'” Vincent said, “but that ‘secure environment’ to make sure that there is no risk from the outside as teams start making that [playoff] drive.”
It’s unclear to me why the NFL would bother with this after months of different protocols. If this does happen though, Minneapolis could be a strong candidate for a playoff bubble as US Bank Stadium did play host to Super Bowl 52 in 2018. Of course there is the fact that it would be January-February in Minnesota, so I’m sure many players would be unhappy to be stuck in the frigid north at that time, but if they’re in a bubble, or secure environment if we must, it shouldn’t really matter.