Updated November 18, 2020 - 4:59 pm
The inevitable hit UNLV on Wednesday. It keeps hitting the Raiders. Here we go again with football in a non-bubble existence.
What an hour or so of local news it was.
UNLV won’t play at Colorado State on Saturday due to four positive COVID-19 tests within its program and the resulting contact tracing.
The Raiders then placed seven defensive players on the COVID-19 list as high-risk contacts to defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell, who tested positive. Veteran safety Lamarcus Joyner and linebacker Cory Littleton had previously been placed on the list.
If all high-contact risks continue to test negative, they would be cleared either Saturday or Sunday. But it means 10 defensive players could miss an entire week of practice.
The Raiders are scheduled to host Kansas City and quarterback Patrick Mahomes on Sunday night. Yeah. Bad timing. Real bad. Just not at all surprising.
Will happen again
It has become the unavoidable truth. Nobody knows which football teams at what level will be affected next. Just that there will be another. And another after that and so on. It’s impossible to know how many until these bizarro worlds of college and NFL seasons conclude.
“I’m not going to get into what list anybody is on,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden told Kansas City-based media on a conference call Wednesday. “We practiced today and we’ll be ready for the game Sunday … It’s what you have to do. Everybody has to adapt. We had to go through some things before and, like I said, we’ll be there Sunday and we’ll be prepared. We’re excited to compete.”
A bit of irony: All of this occurred on the same day the NFL alerted teams that, beginning Saturday, they must operate under the league’s most intensive COVID-19 protocols for the remainder of the season.
That means things like all meetings being held virtually or in the largest possible indoor space, limited time spent in locker rooms, masks mandatory at all times and grab-and-go meal service. That means players should think twice about attending any sort of galas or at least delaying shopping for shoes.
“It has been said many times that our 2020 season cannot be ‘normal’ because nothing about this year is normal,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a leaguewide memo that was obtained by ESPN. “Flexibility and adaptability have been critical to our success to date and we must continue with that approach.”
And still, college and pro teams will produce positive tests.
Numbers are rising across the country. The spread is at a heightened state. So when you have a sport where its participants depart either a college campus or NFL facility daily and return to their families, their communities, those places of businesses they might frequent, these things will happen. No matter how careful a majority of coaches, players and team personnel might be.
Hold your breath
UNLV has now learned this truth with the cancellation of Saturday’s game. This at a school that administered more than 2,600 tests to its football program the past six weeks with a positivity rate of less than 0.6 percent.
“It’s tough and yet I know we aren’t the only ones facing these challenges,” Rebels athletics director Desiree-Reed Francois said. “I know our entire community and country and world are. We recognize sports is just one small component … We’re not immune from it. This whole year has been one of adjust and adapt.”
So you lie down at night as an NFL head coach or college athletics director, close your eyes and hold your breath. That’s reality now. It was always going to be such without the presence of a bubble.
The NFL could certainly afford and manage one in each league city far easier than colleges dotting all parts of the national map and with varying budgets. Neither level has taken such a leap.
So it’s a daily dose of hoping for the best.
And some days, like Wednesday, it can affect both a college and NFL team in the same town.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.