How COVID-19 is impacting the NFL

Kendal Manns

As the world continues to endure the hardships of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL is on the verge of completing its 101st season as the AFC and NFC championships take place this weekend. From daily testing to strict protocols, NFL players, coaches, and their families have had to make tremendous sacrifices to finish their season. To no surprise, there has been positive tests in the league from players and coaches alike. Most of these cases have been contained pretty well, but some of them have not. This has led to some extraordinary circumstances. 

Two examples of those unusual circumstances center around two franchises, the Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns. The Broncos situation was as follows. Those in the quarterback room of the team had been violating COVID protocols by not wearing their masks during meetings. When one of the quarterbacks (Jeff Driskel) tested positive for COVID-19, the whole room was put on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, which is a list where players who have tested positive or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive has to be quarantined and tested over several days and test negative for multiple days to be able to play again. 

This left the Broncos in an unprecedented situation. They had no active quarterback on the roster and they were not allowed to sign one from free agency. They had no choice but to call up a former quarterback turned wide receiver from Wake Forest named Kendall Hinton, from their practice squad. Hinton had not seen in game action in a long time and it showed. He had an abysmal outing as he threw more interceptions than completions in his Week 12 game versus the New Orleans Saints. The Broncos certainly paid for their violation of protocols in this 31-3 blowout versus the Saints.

The Cleveland Browns was another team that was put in an extraordinary situation, but this time it would come in the playoffs instead of the regular season. Disaster struck a few days before the Cleveland Browns would play the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first playoff game since 2002. Their facility was shut down due to a COVID outbreak and head coach Kevin Stefanski tested positive. In the coming days, two more coaches would test positive and four players would be put on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, including starting cornerback Denzel Ward. 

The Browns would have their special teams coach, Mike Priefer, standing in as their head coach on the sidelines against their division rival in the biggest game the organization had been a part of in 18 years. The Browns would be playing under extreme circumstances in an already big game in Pittsburgh, Pa. Unlike the Broncos earlier in the season, the Browns prevailed in a dominant game over the Steelers, beating them 48-37. 

While these two examples may have been the most extreme of the NFL season, there were others as well. During the season stars like Lamar Jackson (quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens), Alvin Kamara (running back for the New Orleans Saints), and Cam Newton (quarterback for the New England Patriots), had tested positive for COVID-19 and missed games because of it. Some games had to be postponed and that required certain team’s schedules to be tweaked. 

The same way that the world has attempted to navigate through these unknown times so has the NFL. You never know what can occur during a week in a pandemic, and anybody could test positive or be put on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Through all of that, we are a few days away from witnessing the AFC and NFC championship games this weekend. 

As we look to the next set of games this weekend between the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs, the NFL season looks to complete its season very soon. This looks to be a very competitive last few weeks of the season. 

Four great teams will face off this weekend for the opportunity to advance to the 2021 Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, Florida on Feb. 7. With everything that this league and its players and coaches have gone through to get to this point, crowning a champion against all the odds would make it all worth it.