NFL teams most affected by COVID-19

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July 17th, 2020

As the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL has remained optimistic that the 2020 season will begin on Sept. 10 — in just 55 days.

In the meantime, the league and the NFL Players Association are still negotiating health and safety guidelines, testing procedures, the number of preseason games, and an opt-out option for players who prefer to sit out this season.

This week, the players association reported 72 known coronavirus cases among players in the NFL, which is cause for concern, as some teams are expected to report to training camp as early as next week.

While some franchises are located in areas where the number of COVID-19 cases has decreased — such as New York and Foxborough — other teams are situated in cities suffering dramatic spikes in the number of positive cases.

COVID-19 cases in select NFL markets

Team14-day average of daily cases (per 100K population)
Miami Dolphins
Arizona Cardinals
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tennessee Titans
Las Vegas Raiders
LA Rams/Chargers
Houston Texans
New Orleans Saints
Dallas Cowboys

The NFLPA website supplies a graphic representation of the 14-day average of daily cases per 100,000 people in select NFL markets.

Florida has been hit hard by COVID-19

The Dolphins are in the greatest hotspot for the coronavirus, among NFL teams. On July 16, Florida reported a record 156 COVID-related deaths in one day. In Miami-Dade, the most populous county in the state (2.7 million people), more than 3,100 new coronavirus cases were disclosed on the same date.

Tampa Bay, which could use all the practice time possible with new quarterback Tom Brady, is in a similar predicament, with the fourth-highest number of new daily cases among all NFL markets. Brady has allegedly been holding informal workouts at a local high school, even though the NFLPA’s medical director recommended players avoid gathering in groups.

In late June, the Bucs released a statement confirming that individuals had tested positive for COVID-19 at the team’s training facility.

California and Texas have also been ravaged

Los Angeles is another city seeing an increase in cases. Back in April, the Rams reported that center Brian Allen had contracted the coronavirus. Later that month, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller confirmed he had COVID-19, as well.

In June, multiple Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys players tested positive for the coronavirus. Star running back Ezekiel Elliott was one of them.

Dallas and Houston are both in the top 10 for new daily cases reported in cities with NFL franchises. On July 16, Dallas County Health and Human Services announced at least 1,000 new daily cases for the 14th day in a row.

A San Francisco 49ers player who was asymptomatic also tested positive in mid-June, after working out in Nashville — a city with troubling COVID-19 numbers. The unnamed player was among a group that included quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle, receiver Deebo Samuel, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

Stricter protocols are coming

While hearing of players testing positive for COVID-19 may sound discouraging for the 2020 season, formal practices should implement much stricter guidelines to help combat the spread of COVID-19. 

Teammates will be tested upon arrival for training camp, and frequently thereafter. The NFL and players association also outlined some game-day protocols. No one with a body temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is allowed inside the stadium on game day, and masks are encouraged, but not required, by coaches and players on the sidelines. Referees are expected to wear some kind of face covering and gloves.

Much to the dismay of players, jersey swapping is also forbidden this season. And fan attendance is still up in the air for many franchises.

The Jaguars will accommodate approximately 25 percent of its normal capacity (17,000 fans) at TIAA Bank Field to start the season. The Ravens also said they plan on a stadium capacity — if fans are permitted — below 14,000 per game.

Many teams are cancelling season tickets and applying any ticket holder's payment for the 2020 season to a credit for the 2021 season.

The NFL will look considerably different when the season begins

It’s become apparent the 2020 NFL season will look far different from any we’ve seen in recent memory, but even as COVID-19 cases rise, the optimism is there that some type of season can, and will, take place.

As Texans defensive end J.J. Watt made clear, the players want to play. The fans want to see them play, too. But more than likely, it'll be from a safe distance, with quite a few changes to the country's most popular sport.

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