The NFL has a distinct advantage in the professional sports landscape right now: they get to watch the NBA, WNBA, NHL and MLB execute their seasons amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They can see what each one does and take lessons from their successes and failures.
The New Orleans Saints have already taken lessons from the NBAs successes (finishing their season in a bubble) and MLBs failures (no bubble, lax enforcement). In his Football Morning In America column on Monday, Peter King described what the Saints have come up with for training camp: a mini-bubble, or what head coach Sean Payton is calling a sequester.
Saints sequester for training camp
To keep their team (both players and staff) as safe and healthy as possible, the Saints are renting out four floors at the Loews Hotel near the French Quarter in New Orleans. Of 180 Saints employees, which includes Tier 1 (coaches, GM, football operations), Tier 2 (doctors, support staff, facilities management) and 80 players, Payton estimates that 150 will stay in the hotel to semi-quarantine until the first week of September.
Its not a bubble, Payton told King on Saturday night. Its a sequester. The message from the league is, The show must go on. If so, weve got to do everything we can to be sure that happens.
Sean Payton and numerous Saints players will be sequestering at a New Orleans hotel during training camp. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
No one will be forced to stay at the hotel, but judging from the website, it looks like a pretty nice place. Great views, spacious rooms, giant bathtubs. Even with amazing amenities, living in a hotel for 5-6 weeks isnt most peoples idea of fun, but as Payton said, they have to do everything they can to make sure they can play out the season. Thats going to involve personal sacrifice from everyone on the team.
The NFL needs to pay attention
The NFL is lucky. Its the biggest sports league in the country and its had more time than any other to prepare and execute a pandemic season. And yet, the Saints came up with this mini-bubble/sequester idea on their own. The NFL, like MLB, is depending on teams and players to police themselves and find their own ways to stay healthy.
That approach has not worked for MLB. Their shortened season isnt even two weeks old yet and theyre already dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks on two different teams, which they somehow did not plan for. Its resulted in scheduling chaos, and a number of teams likely wont be able to play their full 60-game schedule. Theres even been discussion of shutting the season down if positive tests continue to pile up.
The NFL has 17 weeks for 32 teams to play 16 games each. Theres almost no room for error. Considering how disastrous MLBs approach has been, more teams should consider doing a Saints-esque mini-bubble. But most of all, the NFL should be finding more ways to help their teams and players stay safe. The season depends on it.
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