The moment when the National Football League started to go off the rails came on Monday, when the New England Patriots flew to Kansas City.
Up until then, the league had done a surprisingly decent job of getting through the early part of its season, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It had avoided group activities in the summer, scrapped pre-season games, and implemented a thorough testing regime to try to catch outbreaks before they happened. Despite taking the risky step of playing games outside a virtual bubble, the NFL had gone a step farther than Major League Baseball had early in its season, specifically requiring players and staff to stay home when they weren’t on team business. The players agreed, in a revised CBA, to steer clear of the Champagne rooms.
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And when all of that still didn’t work and the Tennessee Titans had an outbreak among players and staff, the NFL was still able to juggle bye weeks, postpone a single game, and allow itself the possibility of getting through a 17-week season without a raft of COVID-related postponements that would cause the whole thing to collapse like a Cincinnati Bengals pocket.