Rolle expresses concern over NFL conditions

Following a trend that was very successful for professional basketball in the United States and is also paying dividends for postseason baseball, a “bubble” concept might just be the safest way for the National Football League (NFL) to proceed with its 2020 season.

It’s a concept that has been raised and shut down before, particularly because of the cost, the number of moving parts and the unavailability of adequate facilities. COVID-19 is rampant throughout the United States – the most impacted nation in the world. One in every 47 Americans has had a brush with COVID-19, which was first reported in the United States in January. Now, there are over eight million total cases and over 220,000 people have died.

Just recently, the NFL has had to postpone games because of novel coronavirus outbreaks among teams, specifically the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans.

Bahamian Dr. Myron Rolle, a third-year neurosurgery resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and a former NFL player with the Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers, is a strong proponent of the “bubble” concept for the NFL – a group of people isolated in a particular location for an undisclosed period of time to achieve a desired result.

“I think a bubble would have been a better idea,” said Rolle to Mike LaCrosse of CBS Sports in Boston. “It would have been certainly difficult to try and pull it off, but that’s not to say it couldn’t happen. If you’re taking this virus that’s infected you back to these people who you love and who you’re doing this game for, it’s a burden that a lot of these players don’t want to face.”

Rolle said he has been in constant contact with selected players in the NFL and they have voiced their concern about current conditions and protocols in place. He said a number of them feel unsafe and are very conscious and concerned about the virus, citing that more stringent measures need to be in place. The Patriots and Titans have both had multiple positive tests in their organizations, prompting team training facilities to be closed and practices to be canceled. Additionally, both teams have had two games postponed each.

So far, the two most high-profile athletes to test positive for the virus are Patriots quarterback Cam Newton – a former league Most Valuable Player (MVP) – and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, also of the Patriots. At the moment, it’s too early to tell if both players will be available for their October 18 game against the Denver Broncos.

According to reports, players and various team personnel are tested daily, with the exception of game day in the NFL, and there are a number of safety measures and protocols in place.

Still, Rolle feels that more could be done, particularly since it’s not just the health and well-being of the players and other NFL personnel that are risk, but their family members and close contacts as well.

“The frequent testing helps, but it has to be only one of a number of measures that we know of that are important to preventing the spread of the disease,” said Shira Doron, infectious disease physician at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

Doron, according to LaCrosse, said the public health mandate for a person to quarantine if they were in close contact with someone, like Newton, is designed to prevent the virus from spreading.

NFL protocols, as reported by ESPN, show that anyone who comes in close contact to someone who is COVID-19-positive, must be tested as soon as possible and isolate until they get the results. They are allowed to return to their respective club facilities following a second negative test and if they remain asymptomatic. They will then be closely monitored for symptoms and undergo more testing.

Recently, the NFL released a statement pointing out it has extended its agreement with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) to continue daily COVID-19 testing on non-game days, including during bye weeks. Therefore, players and coaches are not allowed to leave their team’s city during the bye week, but can still interact with others, and at the end of the day, will go home to their respective families.

As for Rolle, he has been on the frontline fighting the pandemic ever since it became widespread on this side of the world earlier this year. In an interview on ESPN’s First Take, he said he is of the view that the NFL has fallen short in its testing procedures.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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