COVID-19 spike before NFL playoffs sparks discussion within school community

Paul Kurgan

The NFL’s COVID-19 crisis was fully exposed during its twelfth week of the season, affecting the school’s many passionate fans and forcing the coaching staff to analyze the league’s safety protocols to create a safer sports experience throughout the upcoming weeks.

With star players including quarterback Lamar Jackson and all three of the Denver Broncos quarterbacks put on COVID-19 reserve, members of the school’s fantasy football community struggled to find players to competitively put up fantasy points against their opponents each week. Nicholas Guagliano ’23 created his own fantasy football league with his friends over quarantine but explained why the twelfth week’s COVID-19 spike didn’t affect his team in the league.

“A couple of my players didn’t play in week 12, but it didn’t affect me too much because those players were on my bench, and I wasn’t going to play them either way,” Guagliano said. “In our league, we have a bunch of serious competitors who check the site often but some don’t check it at all so the players who were put on COVID reserve for those inactive league members ended up being negatively affected and scored fewer points.”

The school’s football program, led by coach Aaron Huerta, has had to make some major changes to the program ensuring the safety of the coaching staff and players, some similar to the NFL.

“We came up with our own sort of guidelines on what we thought was best for us and we followed the school guidelines and what the county gives us,” Huerta said. “[The NFL] is a little more lenient to what they can do because they test all the time and they have tracking so when they started practice, they had limited distance practice at the beginning which is what we are doing now.”

During these uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic, many football fans were disappointed and surprised by the spike of the virus across many of the teams’ rosters. Ethan Sokol ’23 explained how his favorite team, the Los Angeles Rams, were affected during last week’s order of play.

“The Rams haven’t really been affected by the COVID reserves as much as other teams have been like the Broncos, but I can see how it might be a problem for them come playoff time when they won’t be able to afford to bench any of their star players,” Sokol said.

As the playoffs are approaching, concerns about the COVID outbreak intensifies with the strict scheduling of these high stakes playoff games. Huerta gave his own reasoning on what approach the NFL should take near the end of the season.

“If I was the NFL, with how many cases have been coming out and how many games have been postponed, when it gets to playoffs you really can’t do that,” Huerta said. “You know you got a pretty regiment schedule, I think they should at least consider a bubble. There’s too much at risk to lose players and to lose these franchisee players more than anybody else.”

Players including Aaron Rogers and Pat Mcafee have questioned the NFL’s double-standard approach to COVID-19, but Nicholas Gualigno ’23 stands by the NFL’s decisions and COVID protocols during the spike of week twelve.

“I’m sure the NFL is doing their best in an overwhelming situation where they just have so many people to manage,” Guagliano said. “No one went into this season expecting a net zero COVID cases out of the NFL through four months of play so everyone understood that this was bound to happen at some point. It was sad to see that some teams were affected more than it did others for sure.”

Although football fans are all excited for the playoffs and wish they could be at the games to cheer their team to a Superbowl win, according to Aaron Huerta, the safety of the players, team staff and fans should always be the first priority.
“Being a huge fan myself, I watch football and I get super jealous watching all these games and seeing these fans, It’s tough, I think if you do it the right way, you’re not dangering the game,” Huerta said. “It’s good for the people, it’s good for the game, and it’s good for morale, but it’s definitely taking a risk. “