The NFL’s decision to play the 2020 season in the middle of a deadly pandemic is an inherently irresponsible choice and one driven solely by profit, and there’s no real argument otherwise. In the face of this obvious truth, the NFL has done everything it can to establish safety protocols, which are designed to grant the league office and its 32 teams an aura of responsibility. The virus itself may not be under control, but so long as the league manages to follow its own made-up guidelines, everything is under control. Until something like this happens, that is:
That’s Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey claiming to have contracted COVID-19, just one day after he played every defensive down against the Steelers. Adding further confusion to the situation is the fact that Humphrey was listed on the Ravens’ injury report with an “illness” on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of last week. He managed to participate in practice on Thursday and Friday, though.
So what the hell happened here? Did Humphrey test positive for COVID-19 last week, and the Ravens covered it up by describing it as an undefined illness so that he could play on Sunday? Was he sick with something else last week, and then somehow manage to catch COVID-19 between Saturday and Monday? If he caught the virus at any point prior to the Steelers game, why wasn’t he tested in time to sit out Sunday and prevent potential spread to his teammates and opponents?
There is no answer here that doesn’t look extremely bad for the NFL and the Ravens. Either the safety protocols were brazenly ignored, or they were revealed to be even more useless than previously thought.
It’s perhaps not a coincidence that this news—which we only know about because Humphrey decided to fire off a tweet—interrupted a comfortable rhythm in the NFL’s COVID-related news cycle. Aside from a few outbreaks and postponements early in the season, each week has followed basically the same pattern: A smattering of positive tests from around the league are reported throughout the week; everyone is assured that proper measures are being taken to isolate those who are sick and prevent spread to the rest of the team; no new positives are reported on Sunday morning, and the games carry on as usual, save for a few missing players and coaches.
Maybe that’s really how things have progressed each week, or maybe there are a lot more situations like Humphrey’s that we just never hear about. And why wouldn’t there be? If the NFL decided that it’s no longer that interested in following its own bare-minimum protocols, who would stop them?