It took playing games on all seven days of the week, a wide receiver starting at quarterback, numerous schedule changes and constant revisions to health and safety protocols for the NFL to reach Week 17 on time.
That’s a remarkable accomplishment during a global pandemic.
“Since March, the league, clubs, coaches, Players Association committed to a tremendous medically-led collaborative effort to create a safe work environment that maintained a level of acceptable equity," NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent told The Associated Press on Monday. "Protocols were diligently developed and modified based on virus identification, isolation, containment that allowed the flexibility to adjust schedules when necessary, while at the same time affording clubs and players autonomy in a non-bubble environment. These efforts, still ongoing, by all the stakeholders demonstrates the power of teamwork and sacrifice to achieve a season in unprecedented times.”
COVID-19 wiped out spring practices, canceled the preseason and took 2020 into uncharted territory but it didn’t stop the NFL from conducting business under the most unusual circumstances.
The league presses forward with its goal of playing all 256 scheduled games in 17 weeks and the Super Bowl in Tampa on Feb. 7. What often seemed improbable has become quite achievable.
“Contact tracing is the thing people are not talking the most about, but it is foundational to our success,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer. “We have said all along it is almost impossible to prevent single, isolated cases. Our entire protocol and strategy has been built around mitigating transmission — and the key is good contact tracing.”
The NFL implemented strict COVID-19 protocols that were updated throughout the season as more information regarding the virus and controlling it was learned. Players and coaches were tested daily, mask usage became mandatory, facilities were shut down at various points, meetings were held virtually and the games continued.
Contact tracers became the MVPs. The process is extensive and starts with determining who was exposed to someone who tested positive, the level of exposure and level of risk and how to mitigate risk.