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Vikings Take the Lead in Covid-19 Protocols

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Vikings’ new Chief Infection Control Officer Eric Sugarman
Peter King/NBC Sports

Peter King, in his Football Morning in America piece this week, did a feature on the Vikings’ Covid-19 protocols and procedures.

Wow.

I’ve known some tradesmen that have done work in a nuclear power plant - and this kinda reminds me of that in some ways. Except for the ice barrels.

Anyway, I won’t repeat the whole article again here - but it’s an interesting read and video tour.

Needless to say, however, things will be different. Given the mandate for social distancing and several other protocols and precautions, I have to say it’s very impressive all the things the Vikings have done to get their facility ready for the players.

Of course the Vikings have at least one very important advantages over other teams in developing workable protocols for players: they have a state-of-the-art facility with a lot of space. For example, the locker room at TCO Performance Center is 6,500 square feet - about twice the size of my house. Anyway, you can fit a lot more people, six feet apart, in a 6,500 square foot locker room than you can in a more common size locker room, which I’m guessing is half that size. I suspect the advantage of having a state-of-the-art facility extends far beyond that, as does having a guy like Eric Sugarman in charge.

After having the tour of the Vikings facility, Peter King said he’d be comfortable eating off the floor.

Of course the problem that remains, and one King and some players have mentioned, is what happens when the players leave the facility. What if a couple guys decide they want to go out on Friday night for example, get infected, and come back and spread it to the whole team? I suspect that teams may put in place some rules to prevent that, but so far it hasn’t happened that I’m aware.

Of course the other thing is what if a family member gets the virus and it spreads to the player and then the team?

And what if an offensive lineman tests positive on Friday, after being in close contact with all the other linemen on both sides, and there is a quarantine period that extends past Sunday? How does a team replace all 9 linemen - and perhaps other players in close contact- for the game on Sunday?

Does the quality of play suffer if teams are constantly rotating in backups as starters get the virus? I don’t think that’s really a question.

And so for all the precautions and protocols and high-tech that’s going into keeping the players safe, it still may not prevent an outbreak that could end the season even before it starts. A dozen teams are in high case states like Florida, Texas, California, Arizona/Nevada and New York. Can players in those states make it the whole season without an outbreak? Can they make it through training camp?

We’ll have to wait and see.

The NFL and NFLPA still have to agree on money issues if there is to be a season, but if they don’t players won’t get paid, so I think that provides some incentive for them to agree to the weekly pay-as-you-play scheme the NFL seems to be pushing for. We’ll have to wait and see on that too.

In the meantime, teams are telling season ticket holders there may be empty, or near-empty stadiums this year. The Giants and Jets have already committed to empty stadiums, and the Patriots to only 20% of capacity. I haven’t heard definitely what the Vikings will do- US Bank Stadium is currently closed to all but potentially football. I suspect something like 20% of capacity, rather than an empty stadium, but then how does that work? Who gets the tickets? It seems like a big headache, not to mention all the protocols that would go along with it, but maybe they’ll work it out. If there is a season.

I haven’t been able to find any betting odds on whether there will be a season, or a full season. Not sure if that’s good or bad.

Stay tuned.