So far this offseason, the Kansas City Chiefs have been effective at minimizing the spread of COVID-19 within their organization. Thus far, only undrafted wide receiver Aleva Hifo has tested positive; after spending a few days on the Reserve/COVID list last week, he wasreleased.
That was possible because the organization’s leaders are taking the protocols seriously. Head coach Andy Reid and other coaches have been pictured wearing face coverings at practice.
“If you’re a beekeeper you’d feel real comfortable with the mask on,” Reid joked about the plastic face shields during his media session on Tuesday. “It is different. You have players and coaches, and once you’re on the field, there’s no regulation. You’ll see all the coaches with either a mask on or a shield, sometimes both. So that’s the way we’re rolling as a staff.”
As Reid alluded to, there is no mask requirement for players when they’re on the field. But the players have impressed their coach with the way they follow the in-facility protocols.
“They’ve been doing a great job of wearing masks, doing the right things in meetings, on the practice field when needed... The guys have been so diligent about it. They remind each other about it — and the players committee has been phenomenal on reminding guys at their positions.”
In the lead-up to this abnormal NFL season, many ideas have been floated about how to react to an outbreak. One of them was to quarantine one individual within a position group in case the rest of the unit becomes infected. Once the Chiefs re-signed veteran backup quarterback Matt Moore this offseason, the thought of quarantining him or fellow veteran Chad Henne actually made sense.
But Reid shut down the possibility of that strategy for any group.
“We’re not in a position where we can quarantine guys,” he said. “That’s not the way the camps are set up, or what’s in the collective bargaining agreement. Now that’s where it becomes important: everybody takes care of themselves the best they can when they’re away.”
The silver lining for the NFL has been that they could learn from what other professional sports leagues have done in emergency situations. In recent weeks, major league baseball has had multiple outbreaks within organizations — and have had chunks of games postponed.
“I think baseball did a good job, they figured that something like this possibly could happen,” noted Reid. “The way they set that up, I think they did a good job with it. Likewise, I think our league has. We’re in a position where you don’t want guys or coaches to get this — but there’s a chance that happens and then you’ve got to adjust and move.
“We’ve got things programmed in — a plan — in case it does happen,” he continued. “The league has built that in. We’ve tried to do the same thing with the roster. But [Chiefs head trainer] Rick [Burkholder] said it initially: there’s an unknown. You can’t see this thing, and you don’t know who it’s going to affect.”
The MLB outbreaks may be a reason to be pessimistic — but the successes of the the NBA and MLS have given the NFL hope. The bubble format used by both leagues have given them an advantage — one that’s hard to imagine for the NFL.
But Reid remains optimistic.
“As long as the coaches and the players do the best they can to wash their hands, keep the mask on, social distance — and do the same thing in the building and out of the building — I think we can make this thing happen.”