NFL weighing up COVID postseason protocols, rejects 'bubble'

Amy Tennery, Reuters

Posted at Dec 03 2020 10:04 AM

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III (3) runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at Heinz Field. Charles LeClaire, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is weighing up new safety protocols for the postseason but rejected the idea of playing in a "bubble" setting, amid a surge of COVID-19 cases across the United States.

Numerous NFL games have been delayed due to players testing positive and the highest-profile scheduling headache ends on Wednesday, when a divisional matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens goes ahead nearly a week after its intended primetime Thanksgiving Day slot.

The game also marks the official end of the NFL's Week 12 and puts the finish line for the regular season in sight.

"We’re continuing to evaluate the types of changes we may want to make coming into the postseason," Goodell told reporters on Wednesday.

"All of the options are on the table to make sure we do it safely, correctly and recognizing the unique nature of the postseason versus the regular season."

The league mandated its set of "intensive protocols" for all teams earlier this month, amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases across the U.S., where hospitalizations linked to the novel coronavirus hit a record for a fourth day in a row on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally.

Goodell rejected the idea of using a "bubble" environment for the postseason, as a handful of North American leagues - including the NBA, WNBA and NHL - did in recent months, as the pandemic upended the professional sports world.

"We don’t see the bubble as I think most of you refer to it as, where we’re all in one location and we’re isolating," said Goodell.

"We may look at different ways to reduce the risk for our personnel – whether they’re players, coaches or other personnel – that would limit exposure to others."

In total, 156 players and 270 personnel have had confirmed positive cases since the start of the league's monitoring testing period Aug. 1 through Nov. 28, according to data provided on Wednesday, with more than 700,000 COVID-19 tests administered. 

(Reporting by Amy Tennery, editing by Ed Osmond)

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