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ESPN’s Camera Cart Really Messed Up Johnathan Abram

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 21: Safety Johnathan Abram #24 of the Las Vegas Raiders during the NFL game against the New Orleans Saints at Allegiant Stadium on September 21, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Saints 34-24. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In last Monday’s Raiders win over the Saints, a pair of Vegas players had a scary run-in with an unexpected and immovable object: an ESPN TV cart on the sidelines. Cornerback Damon Arnette found a length of material around his neck, while safety Johnathan Abram hit the camera cart hard, staying down for a while.

Abram was “fine” only by NFL standards, we learn today. He chipped his collarbone, suffered a grade 2 acromioclavicular (shoulder) joint sprain, and had, in NFL.com’s slightly blasé wording, “some internal bleeding.” Only a little! Abram returned to the game, fully practiced, and will start at New England today.

Just because the collision with the cart was not worse doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been disastrous, or that it won’t be if it happens again. It felt very weird for the cart to be that close to the field, and indeed it was—though not for the reason many suspected, that it was a logistics hiccup in the very first game at a new stadium. Instead, it was the result of this uniquely weird season.

Because of the COVID pandemic, there are fewer people on the sidelines than there would be in normal years, and those people would have been between Abram and the cart. In a regular season, Abram would have collided with a cheerleader, or photographer, or one of the many folks milling about on the sidelines that now aren’t allowed there as the NFL makes some attempt at social distancing. That wouldn’t necessarily have been pleasant for anyone, but cheerleaders don’t generally chip off pieces of players’ skeletons. NFL notes that camera carts have been just as close to the field in a number of other games this year, so there’s nothing unique about Las Vegas’s setup.

Which makes it a little more complicated to fix, as any fix has to be league-wide. The NFL.com story says the league has been talking with its broadcast partners about the locations of camera carts, so maybe we’ll see them a little farther back from the field, or maybe we’ll see padding put on the carts. But we’d better see something.