Are Roger Goodell and the NFL Doing Enough to Keep Players Safe?

As sports leagues return amidst the global pandemic, the NFL is on schedule to return in September as planned. It’s hard to tell if this will remain the case. In light of this ever-changing landscape, Roger Goodell and the league have made many changes to team operations to keep players safe. But are they doing enough?

Let’s look at some recent changes, how the NFL will look this upcoming season, and if Goodell is doing enough to keep his players healthy. 

What are the NFL and Roger Goodell doing to keep players safe? 

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USA Today reported that the NFL and NFLPA agreed on two major measures with an eye toward player safety in 2020: They eliminated all preseason games and reduced roster sizes in training camp to 80. 

For the elimination of preseason games, this was a no-brainer and honestly, is a measure the NFL should take even post-pandemic. Preseason games don’t accomplish anything that organized scrimmages do outside of bilking fans out of hard-earned money while forcing season-ticket holders to buy tickets.

The product on the field is subpar, and players often get injured, further compromising the regular-season product. Doing away with preseason would represent a short-term hit for owners, but would likely make the overall NFL product better while only sacrificing four meaningless, below-average games. 

Reducing rosters is also a good move. While it’s unfortunate that more players won’t get a chance to prove their worth, COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease. Cutting the roster size limits risk of exposure. Rosters will eventually be set at 53 players anyway, so it makes sense for the league to do this. With these moves in mind, how will the 2020 season look? 

How will the 2020 NFL football season look? 

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Right now, it’s hard to tell how the NFL will look in 2020 as COVID-19 has impacted the league in countless ways. It’s almost certain we’ll see no fans in the stands anywhere. A USA Today poll reported that most Americans don’t believe we’ll see college or NFL football this season, so the jury is still out to see if they’ll even kick-off. 

The best indicator for how this season will go, though it will hardly be reliable, is to watch how the NBA, MLB, and NHL seasons pan out. The NBA players are in a bubble while MLB and NHL players will have free reign to come and go.

If either one of these three leagues sees a mass outbreak occur, expect operations to cease. That may impact how the NFL decides to move forward, as those three leagues will all be well underway by the time the NFL is scheduled to kick off. 

Is the NFL doing enough to keep players safe? 

The simple answer to this question is no. If Goodell wanted to keep the players 100% safe, he’d shut down operations until the pandemic was under control. Professional football, while entertaining for millions and an important part of our society’s fabric for many, is in no way an essential operation. Without football, life could go on as we know it. 

The reality is more complex, however. The NFL doesn’t want to lose more money than it already has. Many players want to return whether it’s for their paychecks, the desire to play the game and return to normalcy, or both. There’s also plenty of other people employed by the league other than its players. Those people want to get back to work as well. 

That said, if the league is hellbent on returning, there’s plenty more they could do to safeguard the players. That includes have fewer games, giving teams more personal protective equipment, and making social distancing possible on sidelines and in practices. Whether these changes happen remains to be seen.