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Can there be a ‘100 percent safe’ NFL season this year?

Following Kareem Jackson’s comment that he doesn’t want to play an NFL season “if it’s not 100 percent safe,” Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright of Broncos Country Tonight tackled this issue from the players’ perspective.

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Drew Lock and Kareem Jackson were asked about playing football this fall during a Zoom presser with local media, and their answers revealed a distinct difference between a young player in the league and a seasoned veteran.

Lock, the second-year quarterback excited to officially have the team under his command, gave a solid but PR-like answer to the question:

“I’m definitely going to defer that to the professionals, to the doctors. I’m no expert on the coronavirus as of right now,” he said. “I’ll let them decide that. Whenever they decide it’s OK for us to play, then I’m ready to play.”

Yet Jackson, a veteran about to play his 11th season, was more cautious about the safety of playing a season:

“I just think for us it doesn’t make sense to play any games unless it is completely, 100 percent safe for us to go out there. If there is any threat to us being able to contract COVID in any way and spread it to our families or anybody else that we’re around, it just doesn’t make sense,” Jackson said, adding that he’s heard they’re thinking of playing games without fans. “That will be like practice. In my opinion that would suck. Just talking with some of the guys, it just doesn’t make sense to go play any games unless it’s 100 percent safe for us to go out there.”

So much of our focus about whether the NFL has a season, and what it may look like if it does, has been a rather self-centered one - how will it affect us?

As sports writers and sports fans, we all want something to watch and something to talk about. I have been - and still am - in favor of the NFL moving forward as if a season can happen but hoping (and assuming) the powers-at-be are thinking about and planning how this works (or doesn’t) in a pandemic.

We desperately need sports as the few normal moments in our lives right now have been when we were able to take a break to watch the Draft or relive the magnificence that is Michael Jordan with ESPN’s “The Last Dance” or enjoy experiencing some of the best games in our teams’ histories.

Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright talked about this from the perspective of a group we’ve ironically kind of forgotten about in many of our discussions - the players.

Because it isn’t just about what we want as spectators and commentators.

Both Edwards and Allbright noted that the reality is that by August/September it will not be “100 percent safe” because there will still be so many unknowns. Despite the fast-track on a vaccine, now there’s evidence of a new strain that’s more contagious, so this is not going away as the regular season would be starting, much less as training camp, etc., would be starting.

“It’s going to be interesting to see the push back from players,” Allbright said. “We’ve talked about this from our side of the house - for the media, it’s great, we’ve got something to talk about. For the fans, it’s great, they’ve got something to watch. But for the players, ahhhh, you’re kind of putting yourself at risk, aren’t you?”

Edwards added that a lot of the opinions will depend on where a player is in his career - a player in the league a while who has a lot of money saved up might feel he can afford not to play, whereas a younger player in his rookie contract may not feel that confident about giving up the playing time.

“It’s not going to be 100 percent safe, so I don’t know what [players] will have to do to mentally get ready for that, but they’ll have to know there’s risk,” Edwards added. “I mean, there’s risk in everything. The NFL is risk, but this is a different kind of risk.”

Docllv’s editorial reflection/mandate:

I know the tendency here will be to get into another discussion about the government’s coronavirus response, the media coverage of the pandemic and all the political implications that go along with this issue generally and specifically. To which I would remind you - be respectful and recognize you’re likely not changing anyone’s mind on here. I haven’t seen a single conversation on this platform move the needle for anyone’s initial position, but I have seen people get banned for basically being dumb asses with how they talk to each other.

But I do think there’s a very worthwhile conversation that Edwards and Allbright brought up, which is trying to look at this from a player’s perspective. And again, there are a lot of perspectives even within that one cohort.

So rather than reminding us of your political bent here, play NFL commissioner and think broadly and creatively about how you navigate this very serious situation and help make a team’s players feel safe, your NFL fans feel safe, your GMs not nervous about losing their fortune but also considerate of their liability concerns - and still provide an entertaining respite for the country.

It’s a tough problem to solve and may not be possible, but we’ve all got time...let’s discuss.