Stephon Gilmore's postgame hug of Patrick Mahomes has the NFL brushing up against its biggest COVID alarm bell yet
What exactly is it going to take NFL?
It wasn't one of your own lavish team owners who caught the coronavirus. It wasn't several head coaches.
They weren't government mandates that were severely restricted in some stages and no participation at all in others.
It will take the current face of your league, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, the comeback child with the Muppet voice who previously seemed unable to be defeated - certainly not through opposing defense - to find out if he was Is COVID Positive Before Acting? Before doing a seasonal action in the name of safety?
Patrick Mahomes has already used his juice once this year to a high standard. In early June, he agreed to be part of a video with other prominent black players when they asked what was needed before the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell finally stood up and recognized that blacks' lives matter.
Goodell responded to them on a video, partially saying, "We, the National Football League, condemn ... the systematic repression of blacks." It is widely believed that Mahome's participation in the video caused Goodell to respond.
Will Mahomes be involved again, albeit this time in a potentially life-changing situation, before the NFL does anything?
On Wednesday, New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Less than 48 hours earlier, Gilmore's Patriots were playing against Mahomes' Kansas City Chiefs, and the two met for a hug after the game in midfield.
Reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes met in person with Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore after the game on Monday night, who revealed that he tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)
The truth is, it is questionable whether the Patriots Chiefs game should have been played at all. The league has lulled itself into a false sense of security when testing, and the idea that a negative test the day before a game means a player is okay. According to the CDC, the incubation period for COVID-19 is between two and 14 days.
On Saturday, New England quarterback Cam Newton was placed on the COVID reserve list. Days earlier, Patriot trainer Bill Belichick said no one was more around the team than Newton and that he spends a lot of time talking and making connections with teammates in each position group and others on the team.
When no one on the team tested positive on Sunday or Monday morning, the NFL allowed the Patriots chiefs to move forward and New England flew to Missouri to postpone the competition. They took two planes there and back, one for those who had been near Newton in the past few days and the other for those who hadn't.
No doctorate is required to connect the dots.
But once again, a marquee matchup and the almighty dollar took precedence over common sense and were on the side of caution for the health and safety of everyone involved and their families.
This includes Mahomes, whose fiancée is pregnant with their first child. On Wednesday afternoon, Mahomes told the media it was a "minor mistake" to hug Gilmore after the game and that he'd been sleeping in a different room from his fiancée as a precaution since backup quarterback Jordan Ta'amu was found out Kansas City is eager to be positive.
Could Mahomes Pull Coronavirus Out Of A Hug? Experts consider this to be extremely unlikely.
But again, why take this risk until the pandemic is well under control? Why not just risk the health of the league favorite, but every player? Any trainer? Any co-workers or family members?
Months ago, when the NCAA March Madness was canceled and the 2020 Summer Olympics suspended and the NHL and NBA seasons stopped, there were thoughts that the NFL had an advantage because the season wasn't going to be played for a few months, and hence the league had time to plan.
It is clear that this plan was not good enough. As of this writing, there are four teams, the Patriots, Tennessee Titans, and Las Vegas Raiders, with at least one positive player, and the Titans are just a hotspot in themselves.
Playing full contact sports during a raging pandemic always seemed like an incredibly stupid idea to this writer, no matter how much each of us loves the game or how empty your fall weekends might feel without it.
At this point, however, the only answer seems to be getting into a bubble if the NFL insists on moving forward (and we have no doubt about it). That can mean that the games are paused for a few weeks to get all the logistics in order. This can mean millions of expenses that team owners haven't budgeted for.
But trust us, you will get it back. That's why you still wanted the season: money. Your broadcast partners don't care if each game is played in one or two stadiums, they just want the product and the ad revenue. You shouldn't care as there is no “home advantage” in empty stadiums.
This is the challenge you face. The current Defensive Player of the Year has COVID. His teammate, a former MVP, might as well. How many more positive tests will it take?
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