On Tuesday this week, former NFL general manager and current on-air contributor to the NFL Network Charley Casserly talked a bit about his feelings regarding game cancellations due to covid-19, stating that he didn’t believe that teams or the league should cancel if players contracted the virus. Despite NFL protocols currently in place for teams during training camp and the regular season, his thoughts certainly seem relevant and leave more questions unanswered as to how teams should handle a potential outbreak among players and staff.
His remarks are made amid the establishment of an NFL coronavirus advisory committee, a sort of pseudo-competition committee set to advise teams and the commissioner about covid-19 related issues that may arise during the season. The advisory committee is separate from the competition committee and is made up of former NFL coaches, general managers, and players. The committee includes Casserly, former NFL cornerback Champ Bailey, former NFL receiver Isaac Bruce, former NFL head coach Tom Coughlin, former NFL head coach Marvin Lewis, former NFL safety Troy Polamalu, former NFL G.M. Bill Polian, and former NFL G.M. Rick Smith. Previously, Casserly, Lewis, Polian, and Smith were on the competition committee, and Coughlin was on that committee for one season in an advisory capacity.
The committee’s main purpose is to advise commissioner Roger Goodell about whether or not games should proceed and how to handle playoff seeding if teams miss games due to players contracting the virus. Getting insight from one of the committee members in a public forum that games should proceed even if a player gets sick certainly raises the important question of player safety that the league is currently taking to ensure players remain healthy and also questions the wisdom of the advice the commissioner is sure to get. This advisory panel, as opposed to the competition committee, is comprised of members not currently working with any team to reduce conflicts of interest.
Ultimately the final decision to cancel games rests with Roger Goodell but notably absent from the committee is a medical or infectious disease expert. The committee has access to the NFL’s chief medical officer Allen Sills who has stated that the league and teams must remain “flexible and adaptable” when working with the schedule. “I think that’s something we’ll continue to track and monitor. If this taught us anything, projecting three, four weeks down the road is a hazardous business.” His words were in response to adhering to strict scheduling certainly seem like they could be at odds with the committee’s potential to press on in the face of new infections.