NFL Gets Dress Rehearsal With Potential Coronavirus Outbreak

Cleveland Browns Training Camp
Cleveland Browns Training Camp / Jason Miller/Getty Images

For a few minutes, it felt like the NFL was dealing with a full-scale coronavirus outbreak. Several teams had players test positive for the virus and those franchises quickly made adjustments to limit exposure and ensure they'd be able to get back to work as soon as possible.

The Browns, Bears, Steelers, Vikings and Jets all had tests come back positive. The Browns had a "double-digit" number of players and staff test positive. The Bears had nine. It felt like things were spiraling out of control. Then word came out that all nine of the Bears tests were false positives. The Jets had 10 false positives. The Steelers had six.

All of these teams got their test results from the same laboratory in New Jersey. There's a chance something happened there that led to all of the samples being tainted. Don't forget, the NFL also had a false positive with Lions quarterback Matt Stafford. This could be something similar. Or, of course, it could be real and these teams have players and personnel who have coronavirus. Either way, this is a good dress rehearsal for the regular season and it's better to have it now than when the games count and time matters.

With the sheer amount of people involved in each NFL franchise, the odds seem to favor someone getting coronavirus this season. When the seemingly inevitable happens, you'd rather have some experience adjusting quickly so you know what to do in case of emergency. Whether this is real or not, these teams can now inform other franchises of the steps they took to mitigate risk and how their efforts worked.

If these are all false positives, the NFL and the labs can learn from that as well and hopefully eliminate the elements that led to the false positives. If they are real, those teams can discuss with those players what happened and where they were exposed. Perhaps that can also lead to fewer positives in the future.

Obviously we hope no one has coronavirus. But whether they do or don't, it's better for the NFL to have this situation unfold in the preseason than the regular season. Just like preseason games, it's a good chance to learn and improve.