The college football season is probably over before a single snap.
COVID-19 and nervous university presidents are seeing to that.
The NFL is determined to press on — and based on the recent down-tick in COVID-19 cases among its players, might just pull it off.
Much is still unknown about how a football season during a pandemic will work, particularly once travel begins, but Dolphins coach Brian Flores seemed optimistic Monday that games will be played in 2020.
All of them, including the playoffs? He wouldn’t say.
“I think if we take things day by day, we try to use caution and testing that we’re doing, continue the testing, distance, wear masks, and string those days together, if we do that as an entire league, then we’re going to put ourselves in position to play as many games as we can play,” Flores said Monday. “And that’s really all we can do. To make predictions on whether or not we can do this or that, I mean I don’t really want to get into all that.
“All I’ll say is we’re going to try to wear our masks, wear our contact tracers, distance, and do the best we can. And obviously we all know that if you have one person with a virus, people can get infected quickly. So all we can do is do our best to prevent that from happening. And I think if we do that, we give ourselves a chance to play a full season. Which is all we can do.”
Sunday marked the third straight day no Dolphins players were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Of the 14 players who have gone on that list since training camp began, only Ereck Flowers remained as of Monday morning.
That’s an encouraging sign, and suggests that the team’s protocols are working at this time.
But a significant part of the equation is out of the team’s hands. Without a bubble, players, coaches and staff will inevitably come in contact with people outside of the organization. And while South Florida’s COVID-19 numbers have improved lately, the NFLPA still lists Miami as the NFL’s highest-risk market.
Will the local infection rate need to come down more to allow any fans in the stands once the regular season begins? Probably, although the organization still has not made an announcement.
“Look, we’d love to have fans in the stands,” Flores said. “I’d love to have them. Home, away. Obviously, fans are a big part of the game. We’re not out there without their support. From that standpoint, it is important to me. Look, there’s a pandemic. I think we need to obviously use caution, as we’re doing in our building. As a country, I think we’re all trying to proceed with caution in all of our daily activities.
“Look, if we can have fans and have them at the games in a safe way, I’m all for it. If the people who make those decisions don’t think that’s the right thing to do, then we’ll play without fans.”
Here’s something that Flores and general manager Chris Grier do have the final say over: Whether the Dolphins will keep a third quarterback on the roster, and if so, if that third quarterback will spend the season sequestered from the rest of the team.
A nightmare scenario for the Dolphins and any other team is COVID-19 sidelining the entire quarterbacks room, forcing Miami to sign a passer on a Tuesday and playing him on a Sunday.
Right now, Ryan Fitzpatrick is atop the depth chart, with Tua Tagovailoa and Josh Rosen also competing for that starting job. Logic suggests the Dolphins want to give Tagovailoa as much hands-on training as possible throughout the fall, and if Fitzpatrick starts Week 1, that would leave Rosen as the quarantine quarterback.
“We have looked into really every possible scenario, that being one of them,” Flores said of separating his quarterbacks. “Look, a lot of our meetings are Zoom right now. So everyone is in a quarantine. But in a lot of ways it takes care of itself. We’ve thought about that. We’ve talked about that scenario as well as a plethora of other scenarios. So I think we have a plan in place that we feel good about.”
▪ Flores also weighed in Monday on how a canceled college football would impact the Dolphins’ scouting process.
“We’re monitoring that, obviously, from a scouting standpoint,” he said. “This is the time when a lot of guys would be out on the road looking at prospects for next season. Yeah, if there’s not a college season, it’s something we’ve talked about: Chris, myself, Brandon [Shore], Marvin Allen. We have a plan in place for how we’re going to go about the scouting season if there is no season.
“Look, I think everyone loves college football and wants to see it but if we don’t feel feel like it’s going to be a safe environment for those young men, then that’s the decision we make, then we ought to live with that,” he added. “But from our standpoint, looking down the road, which we’re always doing that as well, if we have to make adjustments, then we will. With all that said, our focus is on this team right now, today.”