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How the NFL Dropped the Ball by Not Deploying a ‘Team 9’ During COVID

We are now entering week six of the NFL season, and the expected has happened – teams have players who have contracted COVID-19 and games have been postponed, star players have sat out, and the overall atmosphere of the 2020 NFL season is chaotic to say the least.

“Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans” by AJ Guel Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Not to mention, this season has seen an exceptionally high rate of injury in players – week two alone had huge names like Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Raheem Mostert, and Drew Lock sidelined for weeks or the remainder of the season. So, not only are teams dealing with losses of players to COVID, they are looking at huge holes in their rosters from injuries as well.

The Tennessee Titans are under heavy scrutiny for not containing a COVID outbreak on their team, stemming from a positive test by defensive back Greg Mabin on September 24th. The virus spread fast, with the coach testing positive on September 26th and several more tests after showing there was a bigger problem on the Titan’s sidelines. A record eight positive tests were identified on September 29th, triggering games being postponed, and ultimately a huge uncertainty within the league.

Once October hit, we had postponements and rescheduled games, once the virus spread outside of Tennessee to Cam Newton of the New England Patriots. Two week five games were moved as positive COVID-19 tests were sprouting up all around the league. As of October 12th, there are nine teams affected by outbreaks on the Titans and Patriots that will affect games up until November 22nd.

As you can tell, roster management during these times can be challenging when you have teams littered with COVID-19 positive tests and injuries. The NFL had few policies to ensure that games will go on, and having a bank of healthy players that could fill in on teams could have prevented many of these cancellations.

Researchers and doctors proved early on that anyone who is tested and has a positive test can be contagious for 14 days, so having even one team with an outbreak play, loses two games – and if they play without knowing they’re positive, that will just spiral throughout the league.

“Julian Edelman | New England Patriots” by Seatacular is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

With teams of this size, the possibility of a team outbreak is far too great – and not having protocols aside from cancelling or postponing games was a misstep from the league as a whole. The XFL’s  ‘Team 9’ concept would have at least ensured that the games go on as scheduled. Even if a player was required by a team at short notice due to an isolated COVID-19 positive test, they could call one from ‘Team 9’.

For this to work in the NFL, each team would have to have an injured list, maybe called a COVID-list, and add players to it for a minimum of 15 days, to ensure that the virus is no longer active in the player. When a team has this list, and if they don’t have players on their roster to fill said position, they could pull from the ‘Team 9’ roster if needed – like a call-up.

It was certainly ambitious for the NFL to charge full steam ahead into a regular season, with minimal COVID safety nets. All other professional sports enacted pretty drastic changes, like conference bubbles like the NHL, and the NBA opted for a playoff bubble that was extraordinarily strict – but seemed to be effective as there weren’t any outbreaks.

The predicament the NFL is finding themselves in is also chaotic for sportsbooks and NFL betting, as the NFL betting odds are fluctuating and needing refinement much more frequently as they would in a regular non-covid season. If a star player is out for a game, the odds will change, and sports betting is risky enough as it is, they are seeing a decline in the amount of bettors actively betting week to week.

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Mark Perry, a devoted sports journalist and founder of XFL News Hub, has been a key figure in XFL coverage since its 2018 revival. Launching XFL News Hub soon after the league's return announcement, Mark has established the platform as a primary source for comprehensive XFL updates. Renowned for his in-depth knowledge and commitment to sports journalism, Mark actively engages the XFL community, welcoming interactions at

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