The time has come for the National Football League (NFL) teams to return to the gridiron, and amidst a worldwide pandemic, viewers are in for a rather unconventional season. Due to the current COVID-19 protocols, the majority of NFL teams have opted to play without a fan audience, leaving teams to play one another inside of barren and silent stadiums. While nearly all active sports have been forced to adhere to these safety protocols, watching the NFL is still just as strange as the first time we’ve seen the no-audience strategy.
The times have led to an interesting start to the 2020 season to say the least, with the league as well as its audience being forced to adapt and commit to the new requirements. These changes include the ban on post-game jersey swaps, the complete lack of any preseason games, and of course, the ongoing possibility of the season being cancelled.
With the beginning of the season, it has become clear that the players are not quite as prepared as they are during the normal seasons. The extended period of time off has shown itself in both the level of play of many players, as well as their overall physical health. Whereas the offseason typically consists of constant training for both strength and mobility for the highly physical and unforgiving sport, players were forced to cut back on their normal routines due to the outbreak. This means that many players are out of shape or have become unfamiliar with the high impact hits that they’re expected to handle every game.
This reduced player durability was shown through devastating results in week two with countless season ending injuries across the league. While it is great to have the NFL return after such a long sports drought, the injuries and other irregularities have shown the harmful effects of the pandemic and the toll that it has taken on athletes across the world. While it could be argued that injuries occur in the NFL every season even without the pandemic and the long break, it’s hard to ignore the evidence presented by the injury reports. Some of the major injuries include Saquon Barkley, Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, and Courtland Sutton all being out for the season due to torn ACLs. These are four season ending injuries to major players in the league that will no doubt affect them for the rest of their careers.
The San Francisco 49ers have been hit particularly hard with injuries within the first two weeks. What once looked like a year primed for a revenge tour by the reigning National Football Conference (NFC) champions has now quickly snowballed into a multitude of key injuries and adversity.
The season opener against Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals resulted in a disappointing but hard fought loss. While the loss was still shocking, the true loss came with the injury to the 49ers’ star tight end George Kittle. While known for being a bruiser around the NFL that has played through injury on multiple occasions, Kittle was sidelined for week two. The rocky start to the season only got worse with the second week. Although the 49ers secured a win against the New York Jets with relative ease, the cost greatly outweighed the reward.
The red and gold walked off the field with a completely different team after the game. The list of injuries continued to lengthen, taking even bigger tolls on the team than before. Both starting defensive ends Solomon Thomas and Defense Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa have been ruled out for the remainder of the season, leaving massive holes in the once unstoppable defense. While these two major injuries alone would be enough to cripple any team’s chance of contention, the list just kept getting longer for the 49ers. The team’s two main running backs, Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, have also been listed as doubtful for multiple weeks, along with what is hopefully just a minor ankle sprain for starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Only two weeks into the season, and the 49ers have already faced enough adversity for five seasons. They will have to fight an upwards battle if they want to return to their Super Bowl form once again.
While this season is undoubtedly a strange one, it’s great to see the NFL return during such a chaotic and unpredictable time. Even with all the positives the NFL startup has brought, the physical effects of quarantine have made themselves clear. As more sports continue to start up, athletes will be at an increased risk of injury, and it is important that our BHS athletes take precautions and prepare accordingly.