The Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes have played annually since 1918. That could be in serious jeopardy in 2020.
According to Chris Balas of The Wolverine, the COVID-19 issues within the Michigan program are severe enough that he would “bet against” a game being played next week. The Wolverines are scheduled to face Ohio State in Columbus on Dec. 12.
Michigan added further backing to this report by announcing that it has paused football activities and canceled Saturday’s game against Maryland. The Wolverines will resume practicing no earlier than Dec. 7.
The consequences of a cancellation against Ohio State could be far-reaching. The Buckeyes would become ineligible to play in the Big Ten Championship with one more cancellation, which would limit their schedule to five games due to their own virus issues. Big Ten teams are required to play at least six games in order to be eligible for the championship game.
There are some who will think this proves this college football analyst right. However, it sounds like there are very real problems within the Michigan program right now.
The San Francisco 49ers announced on Monday that they will be playing their two remaining home games in Arizona, and that could mean players, coaches and staff members will have to spend a lot of time away from their families.
Santa Clara County, home of the 49ers and Levi’s Stadium, announced new COVID-19 protocols recently that effectively placed a three-week ban on contact sports at any level. With the NFL being no exception, the Niners will now play their Week 13 and Week 14 games at State Farm Stadium in Arizona, which is the home of the Cardinals.
In addition to banning contact sports for three weeks, health officials have also mandated a 14-day quarantine period for anyone entering Santa Clara County. As Jay Glazer of FOX Sports notes, that means Niners players and staffers may not be able to return to the San Francisco area for the remainder of the season. They play their two “home games” in Arizona the next two weeks before traveling to Dallas and then facing the Cardinals in Arizona in Week 16. The 49ers are scheduled to face the Seahawks at home in Week 17, and that game is not being moved at this point.
It’s unclear if Santa Clara County will make exceptions for players and team members to travel back to San Francisco if they’re being tested for COVID-19. Glazer is of the belief that they will remain away from the area for the next month at least.
The NFL has had its hands full in recent weeks trying to reschedule games and now change the location of some. That has led to some frustration among players, though there isn’t a whole lot league officials can do if they want to play a full season.
Graham Gano returned to action Sunday after spending over a week on the COVID/Reserve list, and it sounds like it was a pretty impressive feat to get back as quickly as he did.
Gano converted all four of his field goal attempts in Sunday’s 19-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. After the game, he went into detail about his battle with COVID-19, in which he experienced a number of symptoms.
Gano was no longer symptomatic by Sunday, and had tested negative for the virus prior to the game.
We’ve heard about some pro athletes who have gotten quite sick as a result of COVID-19. Gano is only the latest.
The NFL continues to show teams that there will be serious consequences for not following COVID-19 protocols, and the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots are the latest to face disciplinary action.
The Saints were fined $500,000 and had to forfeit a seventh-round draft pick for violating mask protocols, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports. New England has been fined $350,000 for similar violations.
The Saints’ latest punishment stems from their locker room celebration following their Week 9 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not all members of the team were wearing masks during the celebration. New Orleans was also found to have conducted a meeting without masks.
New England’s fine stemmed from the way Cam Newton’s positive COVID-19 test was handled in Week 4.
The Saints were punished more harshly because they are considered repeat offenders. Sean Payton was fined $100,000 and the organization was fined $250,000 earlier in the season after the coach failed to following face-covering protocols.
Multiple teams have now been fined for COVID-19 protocols. The Las Vegas Raiders faced a similar penalty to the Saints, and the NFL is clearly committed to enforcing the rules.
The Baltimore Ravens may have identified the source of their ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and have taken disciplinary action accordingly.
The Ravens announced Wednesday that they disciplined an unnamed staffer for unspecified conduct relating to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak within the team. The type of discipline was not announced, nor were any further details.
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, the Ravens disciplined an unnamed strength and conditioning coach for failing to report symptoms of COVID-19. The coach also failed to consistently wear a mask or a mandated tracking device. There is some belief that this individual may be the source of the outbreak that has led to seven players landing on the COVID/Reserve list.
The outbreak also led to the postponement of Baltimore’s scheduled Thanksgiving night game against Pittsburgh. That decision left Steelers players fuming on social media.
Pelissero notes that the Ravens are hopeful that this discipline could reduce any possible punishment from the NFL. The league has already made clear how seriously they take violations, and the Ravens will want to avoid their wrath.
The NFL has decided to postpone Thursday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, and players are unhappy with the way the situation has been handled.
After the NFL announced on Wednesday that the Steelers-Ravens game has been moved to Sunday, several Pittsburgh players took to Twitter to rip the league. Star wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster also took aim at the Ravens for not being able to “get their Covid situation together.”
“First the NFL takes away our bye week because another team can’t get their Covid situation together, now they take away our Thanksgiving primetime game for the same reason,” Smith-Schuster wrote.
As Smith-Schuster alluded to, this is the second Steelers game this season that has been postponed due to positive coronavirus cases with their opponent. The first was against the Tennessee Titans. Baltimore has had at least 10 positive COVID-19 cases this week among players and staff.
Other Steelers players are just as frustrated as Smith-Schuster:
Eric Ebron was another player who blasted the NFL, calling the scheduling change “BULLS—T” (edited for profanity by LBS). Ebron also sent this tweet:
For what it’s worth, at least one player on the Baltimore side seemed angry with the NFL before the game was postponed. You can see that tweet here.
The NFL has done a seemingly good job to this point of handling the COVID-19 situation. There’s no way to please everybody, but ultimately there have been no reports of huge outbreaks or players/staffers becoming seriously ill. Scheduling inconveniences seem like a small price for players to pay.
The Baltimore Ravens have had several positive COVID-19 tests this week among players and staff members, but the plan is for their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday to still be held as scheduled. Veteran defensive lineman Derek Wolfe does not seem pleased about that.
Wolfe took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to mock the NFL for saying “player safety” is always the top concern.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh are supposed to play on Thursday night. There have been at least 10 positive COVID-19 tests within the Ravens organization since Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans, but the game was still on as of Wednesday morning.
Since Thursday’s game is scheduled to kick off at 8:20 local time, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the Ravens flying to Pittsburgh on Thursday morning is an option.
Wolfe is not the first player who has criticized the NFL over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Other players have been frustrated with schedule changes and aired their grievances on social media as well.
Saturday’s game between East Carolina and Temple was delayed just before kickoff for what is unfortunately becoming an all-too-common reason.
According to Brett McMurphy of Stadium, the girlfriend of a Temple player tested positive for COVID-19. This led to a delay of the game while the player was taken back to campus in order to take a rapid test. If the test comes back positive, the game’s status will come into question, and a cancellation may be necessary.
The events took place less than an hour before kickoff. That’s why it was so abrupt that the kickoff needed to be delayed.
This is not the only college football game to have its status abruptly changed not long before kickoff on Saturday. Hopefully it’s the last.
Clemson’s scheduled game against Florida State was abruptly postponed less than four hours before Saturday’s scheduled kickoff. We’re starting to get the reasons behind the unexpected decision.
According to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, a Clemson backup offensive lineman tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday. The lineman had practiced all week, including Friday, and had begun to show symptoms of the virus. That led Florida State to grow concerned that he had possibly been contagious and spread the virus to other Clemson offensive linemen who did not yet know it but could spread it to Florida State players.
In addition, the Seminoles feared that playing Clemson in light of that positive would send a bad message and make them look hypocritical. The team has held its players to strict standards to prevent any positive tests. Florida State has not had any players or staff test positive since coach Mike Norvell did in September.
Both Clemson and Florida State have an open date on Dec. 12. The game could be made up at that point.
The State of Pennsylvania issued updated COVID-19 protocols this week that left some under the impression that the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and their opponents will be required to wear masks during games going forward, but that is not the case.
New language added to Pennsylvania’s mask mandate earlier this week states that athletes must wear masks during competition, which they were not previously required to do. The Steelers issued a statement on Wednesday saying they were exempt from the regulations, and things got even more confusing when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said Thursday that NFL teams must also follow the guidelines and have not been granted an exemption.
So what is going on? While NFL teams have not been granted their own special exemption, they’re covered. Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten has since clarified that the team is covered under Section 3 of the Secretary of Health’s Universal Face Covering Order. That section provides exemptions for athletes including for “respiratory issues that impede breathing” while playing a sport. NFL teams can argue that players will not be able to breathe properly while playing if they’re required to wear masks. The governor’s office alluded to that in an update on Friday.
Coaches, staff members, medical personnel, media members, stadium workers and fans will all be required to wear face coverings, but that has been the case all season. From the sound of it, no significant changes will come from the updated mask mandate.
The NFL has already handed down some very harsh disciplinary action to teams that have violated COVID-19 protocols. Forcing coaches to wear masks has been difficult enough, and having players do it would likely be almost impossible.