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For the prospect of football being played this fall, this coming Monday is noteworthy.

Rookies are expected to report for training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, the teams set to play each other Sept. 10 in the NFL’s scheduled season opener.

NFL rookies for the league’s other 30 teams are expected to report Tuesday.

Veterans are set to arrive at training camps July 28 as the league moves forward with its plan to play the 2020 season during the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet as COVID-19 cases spike to unprecedented levels in the United States, the possibility of fall without football is more than a notion.

Fifty-nine National Football League players in total have tested positive for COVID-19, the players’ union said this week.

Including other individuals within the NFL, such as staff members, who have tested positive, the total number of cases stand at 95.

Last week, the union reported that 72 players had tested positive since July 10.

As players recover and have “multiple negative tests” they are removed from the tally, the NFLPA spokesman said.

The NFLPA and the league have agreed to daily coronavirus testing for all players during the first two weeks of camp.

Top players had voiced their concern and anger on Sunday over a lack of COVID-19 safety protocols.

“Our union has been pushing for the strongest testing, tracing and treatment protocols to keep our players safe,” the NFLPA said in a statement on Monday.

“The testing protocols we agreed to are one critical factor that will help us return to work safely and gives us the best chance to play and finish the season.”

There will be no pre-season games this year.

The league is moving toward a Sept. 10 kickoff for their season, with attendance likely limited at stadiums across the country due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Major League Soccer (MLS) and the National Basketball Association (NBA), both operating out of a “bubble” at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, reported that no new positive cases came out of their most recent round of testing.

MLS is midway through its “MLS is Back Tournament,” while the NBA is set to resume its season July 30.

The Ivy League has canceled football and all other fall sports, and the Patriot League, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Colonial Athletic Association followed suit.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they have canceled non-conference games, and there’s reason to wonder if college football players might never take the field this season.

Yet the NFL and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) continue to get closer to finalizing a deal to play the 2020 season that would culminate with Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 in Tampa Ba.

Ravina Kuller, an infectious disease expert, warns the plan could result in tragedy — the death of an NFL player.

“I’m a huge football lover,” Kuller said. “Steelers fan. I bleed yellow and black. And it pains me to see that football might not happen until next year. But those players’ health is at stake here.

“You might need to see these football players go to the ICU or end up dying for them to step back and cancel games.”

So how is it that the NFL continues to move forward with optimism, and what does it say about the prospect for football in the fall?

Money remains a powerful motivator for a league that generates about $15 billion a year.

Dr. Charlotte Baker, an assistant professor of epidemiology in the Department of Population of Health Sciences at Virginia Tech, suggests people are overlooking the obvious.

“We still have this gigantic obstacle called COVID-19,” she said. “It’s not going away anytime soon. I think that’s really the biggest point. That really dictates what it is we can and can’t do and what we should and should not do.”

Yet the NFL marches forward — and gladly explains how and why.

A medical committee that includes the Infection Control Education for Major Sports was formed in March by the NFL and NFLPA.

The group set forth protocols it said would allow the NFL to play this fall.

“Another thing is we’ve been working directly with the White House (Coronavirus) Task Force,” said McCarthy, vice president of Communications for NFL. “We’ve been working directly with the CDC, so the CDC has reviewed the protocols.

“We’ve also talked to every (NFL) market government officials, including mayors, county executives, governors as well. And all our plans, we sent to them to make sure they’re aware and they have comfort level that we can have players going into training camps, players having games.”

At the same time NFL training camps get underway, the NBA and Major League Baseball are scheduled to start their regular seasons.

“The NFL will have the ability to learn from those other sports,” Adalja said. “It’s not quite the same, but there’s still some lessons to learn about testing frequency and protocols and how to deal with contact tracing and quarantine issues.

Last week, Tampa Bayleft tackle Donovan Smith expressed his concerns via social media.

His wife is pregnant and their first child is expected in three weeks, he wrote.

“Risking my health as well as my family’s heath does not seem like a risk worth taking,” Smith wrote. “How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferral of all types of bodily fluid EVERY SINGLE PLAY practice safe social distancing? How can I make sure that I don’t bring COVID-19 back to my household?’’

On Sunday, the NFLPA coordinated a Twitter blitz from players around the league.

“What you are seeing (Sunday) is our guys standing up for each other and the work their union leadership has done to keep everyone as safe as possible,” NFLPA president and Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter tweeted in explaining the purpose of the blitz. “The NFL needs to listen to our union and adopt the experts’ recommendations #wewanttoplay”

And so forward the NFL moves, with the NCAA’s Power Five schools and high school football in states like Florida and Texas still set to follow.

Will football be played this fall and, if so, played safely?

“It’s just so controversial and for good reason, because football (involves) so much contact,” said Pettis, who has more than 30 years of experience as an infection preventionist. “It’s one of the things that is very, very difficult to give a definite answer.

“Or, I should say, you can give a definite answer, but is it going to be the right answer?”


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