NFL

Why Are Joe Buck and Troy Aikman Wearing Masks in the Fox Sports Booth?

Football fans tuning in to the Thursday night game between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers may have noticed something odd right off the bat: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman did not look like themselves in the Fox Sports booth.

Injuries, COVID-19 concerns have decimated the San Francisco 49ers

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San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was handed an unenviable job as his team kicked off NFL Week 9 with a Thursday night home game against the Green Bay Packers. The 49ers’ roster midway through the season bears little resemblance to the team that lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54.

San Francisco moved quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle to the injured reserve list early in the day. They were also without receivers Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, and Deebo Samuel, plus left tackle Trent Williams. The four landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list after Bourne had what proved to be a false positive result for the coronavirus.

In addition, Shanahan placed running back Tevin Coleman, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, and linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles on the inactive list. The 49ers were left without a player on offense who touched the ball in the NFC championship game against the Packers last January.

Added to the 49ers’ multiple previous injuries, the old adage about not being able to tell the players without a scorecard had to ring true for Fox Sports announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.

Fox Sports had to bench one of its crews this weekend

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COVID-19 is hardly the exclusive concern of the San Francisco 49ers. Nearly every NFL team has either had players test positive or seen games moved on the calendar as the NFL has juggled schedules due to virus outbreaks.

The coronavirus has even extended its reach to the broadcast booth, directly affecting Fox Sports this weekend. The network disclosed that its entire crew for its Saturday college pregame show will not be working.

Fox announced that host Rob Stone, former USC players Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, and retired Ohio State coach Urban Meyer will not work as a precaution. The New York Post reported that there were no known confirmed positive tests within the crew, which works out of Los Angeles, but Fox made the decision out of an abundance of caution.

Instead, Fox will cobble together a crew including NFL Sunday regulars Charissa Thompson, Terry Bradshaw, and Howie Long.

Why are Joe Buck and Troy Aikman wearing masks?

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The Fox Sports formula for covering NFL games typically includes putting a camera in the booth so that the broadcast team can offer a few observations and predictions before the opening kickoff. The camera also gets used during a halftime rundown of the first two quarters and during occasional breaks in the action.

When the Thursday night game between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers started, there was something different about play-by-play announcer Joe Buck and Troy Aikman: Both were wearing masks. That was a departure from the routine followed by most announcing teams for the various networks this season. Most have been working without masks but often with plastic dividers between their seats in the booth.

However, the game in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, presented a different circumstance for Buck and Aikman. As is also the case with the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, New York, 49ers games are subject to a local ordinance requiring everyone in the stadium who isn’t playing to wear a protective mask.

Sideline reporters Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink had to abide by the same rules.