Welcome to The Hook, my weekly column that hooks you into a different Tampa Bay Buccaneers topic each Thursday, as well as some of my thoughts on the Bucs and the NFL at the end in a section called Cannon Blast.
I invite you to offer me some feedback on The Hook below in the article comments section.
These are strange days indeed.
Three months ago, the biggest concerns in the lives of most Bucs fans were whether or not Tampa Bay would bring quarterback Jameis Winston, would Tom Brady consider leaving New England to become a Buccaneer, and can Tampa Bay keep the nucleus of its defense intact?
The last thing anyone expected was a possible interruption – or cancellation – of a season.
Now here we are almost halfway through June and we now have to wonder, will there even be a 2020 football season? And if so, what will it look like?
While the answers are unclear, the one thing is certain is – it won’t be like anything we have even seen before.
Unless you were alive in 1918 during the Spanish Flu pandemic. And I’m venturing to guess no one reading this column was even a thought at that point.
So far, all indications are the NFL season will happen. At least that is the plan.
But with COVID-19 cases beginning to spike in some states with re-openings of businesses and relaxed distancing policies, and what scientists and doctors feel could be a second wave of cases as we move into the fall, there are no guarantees.
With the recent racial tensions in the country and the number of protests seen scattered in nearly every U.S. state, most feel we will inevitably see a surge in cases.
But what if there isn’t a significant spike? That bodes well for fans being able to attend games in the fall. At least in some capacity.
And playing football in the the open air stadium like Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville would most likely be more conducive to limiting exposure. But what about cities that have domed stadiums in Atlanta or New Orleans?
Locally here in the Tampa Bay area, we have a few things going for is in our favor. A warmer climate, and the before mentioned open air stadium and the two biggest factors. While it isn’t entirely clear if warmer weather plays a factor in this particular virus slowing down, it does make a difference in seasonal flu and other respiratory ailments.
If a vaccine is developed, and if it is proven to be successful, the chance it would be really to be rolled out before the early part of 2021 is very slim. The good news, according to reports, is that there are at least 160 different vaccines in development right now globally. And some of those have already begin Phase III, which means they are being tested on humans. There is a good chance a vaccine will be developed and could be the saving grace of sports moving forward, but as noted, the likelihood of it benefiting humans before 2021 is very slim.
The Spanish Flu pandemic began in January of 1918 but didn’t end until December of 1920.
One hope of the NFL and other sports leagues moving forward would be proven treatments that limit the duration and severity of the virus. When a person tests positive for the seasonal flu, medications like Tamiflu, Relenza and Rapivab have been proven to shorten the severity and duration and lessen complications. So far there has been no definitive treatments for COVID-19, although studies are being conducted throughout the world on antiviral medications that are already on the market that could possibly be game-changers.
Another hope is the development of testing that would come with a rapid result. Could a test that gives results in as little as 20 minutes be the key to fans being able to watch games in person? Several companies are in the process of developing these rapid result tests.
Of course then there is the logistics of trying to perform 60,000 plus tests before games each Sunday. Perhaps the NFL would require some sort of negative test result certification from a health care provider that had to have been conducted 24-48 hours prior to entering a stadium.
For the media that gets to cover games, we are already beginning to realize our job will be done much differently in 2020. We already know fans won’t be attending training camp practices, but what about the media?
And if we can attend camp at the AdventHealth Training Center, in what capacity? One reporter from each outlet? Maybe two? The answer is unclear at this point. But most likely the daily 45 minute open locker room periods will be a thing of the past – at least in 2020.
If the NFL is able to play, and can keep a 53-man roster, 20 coaches, 25 other support staff members relatively healthy with daily or weekly testing, all it would take is one sick or contagious media member spreading the virus to a player who could infect a whole meeting room. And before you know it half the team is sick, in a 14-day quarantine and two weeks of games would be canceled or postponed.
Instead what we likely see is what we have come to know over the last couple of months, and that is a lot of Zoom call media scrums. Not the best way to get individual or unique content or stories, but likely a necessary evil.
The NFL recently released guidelines for opening and welcoming back players to the facility, but some of the requirements will create major headaches for teams, including re-configuring locker rooms to keep players separated by six feet. During the season nearly every locker space at One Buc is in use when adding together the 53-man roster and the practice squad players. This requirement will almost certainly mean additional locker space will have to be added.
Tampa Bay has room to do so at the AdventHealth Training Center, and at Raymond James Stadium, but what about other teams? I’ve been in some super cramped locker rooms on the road. Some stadiums will literally have to expand and remodel their locker room space.
In a joint NFL-NFLPA memo to clubs, teams will, among other things, be required to have 6 feet of space between lockers upon re-opening pic.twitter.com/z7eVvhs9fQ
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) June 8, 2020
If fans are allowed in to watch games in 2020, don’t wait until 15 minutes to kickoff before walking up to the gates. If you do, you might not get in before halftime. Expect social distancing to be mandatory before you enter the venue, and that would most likely include a brief heath questionnaire and a temperature check. If you thought security checks were a hindrance in the past, you likely haven’t seen anything yet.
We’re in a different world now because of COVID-19. We will get through it, we always do, but things will look a lot different as we arrive.
In the meantime, wash your hands, avoid risky situations and unnecessary large crowds and keep your fingers crossed we will see football in some capacity this fall.
Cook’s musings and ramblings about the Buccaneers and the NFL. Good stuff. Check it out.
• If the AdventHealth Training Center is off limits to media members this year, what a bummer from a personal standpoint. How am I going to convince Rob Gronkowski to join me for an episode of What’s Cooking?
In two years of doing the meaningless show that has never seen anyone actually cook anything, the Cam Brate shows have been voted the best in the series. Well, not really voted, but the ones I thought were the best. But Gronkowski could have stolen the title from Brate with is quirky, frat boy personality.
Check out Brate’s 2018 appearance below in the Last Laugh section that has been voted (by me) the best episode in the history What’s Cooking.
• Speaking of Gronkowski, hats off to him and the Buccaneers organization for donating money to but equipment for Blake High School after the school lost all of its football equipment in a recent fire.
• On a more serious note, Bucs CB Carlton Davis joined the media on Wednesday and just previous to the call had posted on social media about some of his personal experiences with racial profiling by law enforcement. On the call, Davis shared his thoughts on all that is going on in our country currently and it was eye opening to hear and read his story.
I don’t have any answers for the racial inequality that happens daily in our country, but I do think listening to others is helpful. And not just listening, but hearing. Everyone wants to talk and can’t wait to pipe in with what they think, but if we take a minute to listen and more importantly hear what others are saying, we can have a better understanding all the way around in this country.
My favorite episode we’ve done. The Alan Cross and Ryan Griffin ones were also a couple of my favorites. You can catch up on all of the past episodes on our Pewter Report YouTube channel here.