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What’s next for the NFL entering week 5

Yahoo Sports Reporter Pete Thamel breaks down how the NFL is handling the pandemic as more players test positive for coronavirus.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: The Patriots quarterback, over the weekend, revealed he had been diagnosed with coronavirus. I'm talking about Cam Newton. We also had the Kansas City Chief practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta'amu testing positive. So that postponed the Pats-Chiefs game from Sunday afternoon to tonight.

Pete Thamel is joining us now. He covers football for Yahoo Sports. Pete, how has the NFL been doing so far?

I mean, certainly they obviously did not take the bubble strategy. Would've been hard for them to. Football squads are a lot larger than basketball, for example. But boy, we have had a lot of delays and issues here.

PETE THAMEL: Well, Julie, what I think you're seeing is the intersection of human nature with success. The NFL compared to college football has been exponentially better. I believe college football's had 24 games either canceled or delayed through the first five-ish weeks. It's hard to say when weeks are because everything got delayed and muddled a little bit.

So the NFL, obviously, having two games disrupted is-- is much better on a percentage-wise. The NFL also had more money to do daily testing. I think what we've seen now is some of the urgency to not interact with folks, to not do things outside the facility has waned, which, again, is human nature, as the NFL maybe almost had a little too much success early because it had been fairly seamless through all of training camp-- which is about a month-- and then the first couple of weeks of the season.

So look, I think what we've seen is-- has been a little bit inevitable. And the strategy of the NFL, Julie, has been to put up, essentially, a daily bubble. And it's not perfect.

It's not flawless. Everyone gets tested as they walk in the facility every day. But it's drastically different than what the NBA had set up.

ADAM SHAPIRO: And isn't it a different experience, though, when you're looking at NFL football versus college football? Because we're seeing larger gatherings when it comes to college football. Do the schools and the divisions have any concern about that and the potential spread of the disease that could hit the games?

PETE THAMEL: Sure. Adam, are you talking about attendance-wise?


PETE THAMEL: So college football, again, is this beautiful mass where all the rules are different in every place, right? Some places have no fans. Some places have limited fans. No place, thankfully, has all fans.

But, like, we saw over the weekend, SMU threw out its entire student section because they clearly were not abiding by COVID rules. There were some really cringe-worthy shots in the Georgia-Auburn game in Athens, Georgia on Saturday night where very few of the students in the crowd and-- and fans in the crowd were wearing masks. So certainly, there-- there is some accepted risk.

These stadiums-- it varies. 20%, maybe 25% are doing it. But it seems like as the games go on, the fans get a little closer together. Everybody scrunches a little more together. So we have thankfully not seen yet any kind of spreading event at the stadiums.

RICK NEWMAN: Hey, Pete, Rick Newman here. You know, every league is kind of doing its own thing. So we've got to sort of experiment under way. You know, who's doing it best?

Is there any template evolving for, like, best practices for how to operate a sports league with COVID? Or is the nature of the game in each organization so different that it really does have to be different based on the sport?

PETE THAMEL: You know, Rick, really, really good question. And I do think the nature dictates how they're going to be held. Like, the NBA bubble was ideal, right? They had zero tests and was-- you know, went off and is going off nearly flawlessly. The Finals are obviously happening right now.

I think what we're seeing in college football is a fascinating experiment, Rick, because each league is taking a different tact. The Big Ten, which is starting later, is doing daily rapid testing. The Pac-12 is gonna do the same thing. They don't start until October 24 in the Big Ten and November 7 in the Pac-12.

So it will be interesting to see if there's more effectiveness with the daily rapid testing as opposed to the other leagues, which are doing, you know, different varying times, three times a week, four times a week. Some are mixing PCR and antigen. Some are doing just PCR. So it's just been a mixed bag. And I don't really think we're gonna know the best practices until-- until November, December in college just until we see this play out more.

JULIA LA ROCHE: Hey, Pete. It's Julia La Roche. And of course, the most important thing is the health and safety of the players.

I just want to turn back to the NFL. I don't play fantasy football, but I know there are a lot of folks out there who do. So what happens when the games-- I guess, when they get postponed or rescheduled? What does that mean for the fantasy football business?

PETE THAMEL: Julia, that's-- that's a really good question, especially at Yahoo, where we have a big fantasy football business. I think that, you know, that's, again, gonna go on a-- go on a case-by-case basis. I would imagine if your team is scratched, your quarterback's scratched, you then just have to pick up somebody else, you know, as if-- as if there was an injury that-- injury that occurred.

JULIE HYMAN: Pete, thanks so much. Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, appreciate it.