Roger Goodell has announced at all training camp activities must be held at team headquarters, as COVID-19 claims its first NFL logisitical causality. That means that for the first time in 54 years, the Pittsburgh Steelers will not hold training camp at St. Vincents in Latrobe.
The NFL is making this move to safeguard the health and safety of players, coaches, staff and fans.
- If Roger Goodell’s goal is laudable, his logic is flawed, adding yet another mistake in a tenure characterized by errors.
If the purpose is to protect as many people as possible by reducing risk of exposure to infection, then forcing a team like the Steelers to hold its training camp at the South Side as opposed to St. Vincents is counterproductive.
An observation from Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell reveals why. Wexell, who sees the decision as a “smart move” laments:
There won’t be a training camp, at least one at which I spend all day gathering information, all evening writing, and then arising early in the morning to write from the heart. I can do all of that on the South Side of Pittsburgh, but will be confined to media room, practice field and locker room, and will have to waste precious writing time driving to and fro.
Wexell’s final four words drive home the irony of Goodell’s decision.
Instead of staying on the grounds of St. Vincents for close to a month, Jim Wexell will be driving back and forth from the Steelers practice facility to his home. That means he’ll be stopping for gas, perhaps picking up laundry or going to the grocery story. Every day. So will several dozen other members of the Steelers press corps.
Each of those trips multiplies the possibility that someone will come into contact with another person who has Coronavirus, contract the virus themselves, and then unwittingly bring it into the Steelers headquarters.
- Sports reporters and photographers won’t be the only ones commuting back and forth either.
So will everyone else in the organization. Coaches will be at home with their families. So will veteran players. Rookies will be going back and forth to their hotels. And so on. Front office staff, who normally wouldn’t set foot on St. Vincents, will be at work on the South Side, further expanding the chain of potential contagion.
In contrast, the Steelers could have hunkered down for the entire time at St. Vincents. Players, coaches, staff and press could have been tested on day one and been forced to stay on campus for the duration of camp. Fans, of course, would have had to stay away.
While it would be logistically impossible to turn St. Vincents into a hermetically sealed biosphere type environment, interactions with the outside world could have been severely limited, reducing the chance of infection. Alas, that won’t happen now.
The global COVID-19 pandemic is a deadly serious crisis. It has claimed 100,000 US lives thus far, upended the global economy, and stopped the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball dead in their tracks.
- Unlike other pro sports, the NFL knew the Coronavirus would impact its operations and has had time to plan for it.
Decisions to curtail off season scouting, hold a virtual draft and digital OTAs were small fish. The choice on where and how to hold training camp was the first big decision the NFL had to make, and they’ve blown it. Let’s hope future decisions are made with more wisdom.