The Oct. 5 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots was delayed a day due to players on both teams testing positive to COVID-19.
In the same week, the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans was moved to week seven and affected other parts of the league schedule. Coronavirus has officially caught up to the NFL.
Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, Oct. 3, mere hours before the team planned on leaving for Kansas City. Both the Patriots and the Chiefs re-tested their players before the NFL made a decision about the game. The Chiefs’ practice squad quarterback, Jordan Ta’amu, tested positive for the virus, but the rest of the team tested negative. After the Patriots tests all came back negative, the league moved the game from 3:25 p.m. on Sunday to 6:05 p.m. Monday. The Chiefs defeated the Patriots 26-10 behind three interceptions by the Chiefs defense.
At the game’s conclusion, Patrick Mahomes interacted with Patriots All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore for a post-game handshake and friendly hug. The day after the game, Gilmore tested positive for COVID-19.
“I was just trying to show respect to a great football player who I hope is getting better very quickly,” Mahomes said in response to the incident. “I’ll just try to keep away from that and try not to do it again.”
Last week, 13 Tennessee Titans players and staff tested positive, causing a major schedule adjustment. The Titans and Steelers week four matchup moved to week seven, and the Steelers-Ravens original week seven game moved to week eight.
Even after changes to the schedule, Titans players broke protocol and met at a Nashville high school for practice after team facilities shut down. As of Thursday, Oct. 8, the Titans had a league-high 23 positive tests for the coronavirus. The NFL opened an investigation into the Titans organization following the positive tests.
The pandemic has struck other sports as well, with Major League Baseball facing its own concerns with the coronavirus throughout the season. The Royals placed several players on the COVID-19 reserve list early in the season. Other teams, like the St. Louis Cardinals, postponed games due to outbreaks in the organization. There were doubts the MLB season would continue, but the second round of the MLB postseason started this week.
The keys to success for the NFL in this pandemic are compliance and flexibility. The NFL issued fines to several coaches for not wearing masks on the sidelines during games. Las Vegas Raiders’ Derek Carr and Darren Waller also received fines for not wearing masks at Waller’s recent charity event. The Raiders amassed $400,000 in fines over the last few months for breaking the league’s COVID-19 protocols – the highest amount of any team in the NFL.
Professional football boasts one of the most rigid schedules in North American sports and changing it around is not easy.
Baseball, basketball and hockey teams play multiple games a week with few or no days off in between. These sports reschedule games frequently even under normal circumstances. The NFL, rarely, if ever, moves games.
However, they have already rescheduled several games through the first five weeks of the season, two of which are Chiefs games: the aforementioned Kansas City and New England game and the week six matchup against the Bills, which has moved from Thursday, Oct. 15 to Monday, Oct. 19.