It’s a question Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says he has been pondering since the early days of the pandemic: What happens if COVID-19 infiltrates the team’s quarterback room — and specifically star quarterback Russell Wilson?
“Knowing how vital it is to your team, what if that room gets hit and everyone gets quarantined?” Carroll asked Monday afternoon. “That’s a big consideration.”
That scenario became a reality for the New England Patriots over the weekend, when Cam Newton tested positive and went into quarantine. Because of his positive test, the Patriots’ game against Kansas City was postponed a day and New England played without Newton on Monday night.
So far, Carroll and the Seahawks have been successful at keeping the virus away from their facility; they are one of the few teams in the NFL that have not had a verified positive case.
But as the league saw last week with its first major outbreak in Tennessee, and again over the weekend with Newton, no one should get complacent.
Quarterback might be the most valuable position in sports, and no NFL player has been more valuable to his team than Wilson has been to the Seahawks in their 4-0 start this season.
Carroll didn’t offer details but said the team has gone to great lengths to try to make sure Wilson is not exposed.
“We’re working hard to try to protect (him), you know — by doing a great job across the board in general for everybody,” he said, adding that “there’s nobody more diligent about wearing his mask than Russell.”
Carroll pointed to the situation in New England, where, beyond Newton, no other players are known to have tested positive. Carroll said he sent a message to Bill Belichick in hopes of learning what protocols the Patriots have in place that kept the virus from spreading in their locker room.
“That’s just a remarkable job they did, and hats off to ’em,” Carroll said.
Not everyone around the NFL has been as diligent, prompting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to arrange a league-wide conference call Monday to address COVID-19 safety protocols.
After that call, Carroll said he met with the Seahawks to reinforce the importance of adhering to the protocols.
“It’s really about being diligent — it’s this diligence that we just have to just be extraordinary (at),” he said. “It’s part of winning right now.”
Goodell issued a memo to all 32 teams Monday warning of stricter penalties for teams that are found to be in violation of the protocols. One new penalty: forfeiting games.
“Protocol violations that result in virus spread requiring adjustments to the schedule or otherwise impacting other teams will result in additional financial and competitive discipline, including the adjustment or loss of draft choices or even the forfeit of a game,” Goodell wrote in the memo, which was obtained by The Associated Press.
“Simply put, compliance is mandatory. Now is the time to recommit ourselves to our protocols and best practices for the duration of the season.”
The Tennessee Titans have had 10 players and 10 staffers test positive over the past week. In response, the league and the players’ association announced the implementation of more safety protocols, including:
- A longer onboarding process for free agent tryouts;
- Bans on gatherings outside of the club facility;
- Limitations on the number of tryouts permitted per week;
- Implementation of a league-wide video monitoring system to ensure compliance with the protocols — “particularly the mandate that all staff and players wear PPE while in a club facility and on travel at all times.”
The league also is considering holding all meetings virtually; requiring masks or shields during practices and walk-throughs; decreasing the size of the traveling party to games; reducing the time spent in lunch rooms and locker rooms; and daily consulting of proximity tracking device information now in use to identify areas where teams could eliminate close contacts.
“As we have said before,” Goodell wrote, “act as if every person you come in contact with has a COVID infection and take appropriate precautions.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.