Depth more important than ever
With NFL training camps set to open in just about three weeks, it is going to be more important than ever to have depth at every position.
Listening to Buccaneer’s head coach Bruce Arians’ talk, he is painting a grim reality of what all teams will be going through as they try to navigate playing an NFL season during the COVID pandemic.
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times Arians said “We’ve got to be careful. The players, they’re going to all get sick, that’s for sure. It’s just a matter of how sick they get.”
Arians is a cancer survivor and will wear a mask and a face shield when conducting meetings inside the facility.
“All my team meetings, we’ll do in the indoor facility like a big auditorium and I’ll use a microphone, which I hate using, but I have to. If I’m going to take my mask off, I’ve got to be far enough away to get my point across and the Bucs have some big TV screens to put my messages on.”
Arians is preparing for the possibility that one or more starters from the Bucs offense and defense could be sidelined due to the COVID pandemic.
In another twist, Arians is thinking about keeping one of the quarterbacks separate from the other quarterbacks during training camp to ensure that there is one healthy quarterback available on game day should a quarterback acquire COVID.
If a player tests positive for COVID during the season, they will have to quarantine themselves a minimum of 14 days. This could mean the infected player could miss a minimum of three games depending on how the schedule falls.
Most teams will treat this just like an injury. But if you have multiple players contacting the virus at once that could prove to be problematic.
If wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin come down with COVID at the same time, that would mean Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, and Justin Watson are your top three receivers.
The Bucs offensive line which showed improvement last season could also be down one of their starters before the season even starts due to the COVID pandemic.
Starting left tackle Donavan Smith posted a statement on his Instagram On Friday. “Risking my health as well as my family’s health does not seem like a risk worth taking. With my first child due in 3 weeks, I can’t help but think about how will I be able to go to work and take proper precautions around 80+ people every day to then go home to be with my newborn daughter. How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferal of all types of bodily fluid EVERY SINGLE PLAY practice safe social distancing? How can I make sure I don’t bring COVID-19 back to my household?”
Smith 27, is being counted on to protect Tom Brady from the blindside and is due to make $14.5 million this season.
Smith went on to say, “Now to hear that 35 percent of my paycheck may be withheld while we are out sacrificing our health and wellness for the joy and entertainment of everyone else who will be safe at home in front of their TVs? Something isn’t right here. That should at LEAST warrant a pay raise due to the risk, not a cut. I am not a lab rat or guinea pig to test theories no. I am a man, a son, brother, soon to be a father, and I deserve to be safe at work.”
Other NFL players have voiced their concerns about playing during the pandemic as well. Most notably Richard Sherman of the 49ers.
The Bucs are five to ten million dollars under the salary cap and the draft class of 2020 has yet to be signed. Teams will not be able to bring a roster of 90 players to training camp.
This could hurt teams from a depth perspective and a team like the Bucs. Bruce Arians is a proponent of as many practices as he can squeeze in to give the free agents and rookies a chance to showcase what they do well.
Teams have already lost two preseason games that are used primarily as glorified practice sessions for those free agents and fringe players trying to make the roster.
The league will need to increase the roster on game days and also increase the number of players that teams are allowed to carry on the practice squad.
There is still too much we don’t know about how this pandemic will affect the 2020 season. It will be a very fluid situation right up until week one.
What I do know is depth at every position will be more important than ever before during the 2020 season.