As the NFL begins plans to allow players to return to facilities, conduct training camps, and hold the regular season as close to normal as possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the uncertainty surrounding the virus throws another curveball at coaches this offseason.
Speaking on former defensive end Chris Long's Green Light podcast, coach Bruce Arians underscored the uncertainty staffs are dealing with in planning for the season. Arians noted that he's trying to decide whether to keep a quarterback away from the facility to ensure the club has a healthy signal-caller in case Tom Brady and his backup must be quarantined.
"Yeah, that's one of the things I've been pondering the last two or three weeks, as we set the protocols," Arians told Long. "From what I'm understanding is if you test positive, you get quarantined for two weeks. Now, if you have no symptoms, I don't know what that means -- is it a false (positive)? Is it... There is so much to learn and still explore with this thing. But I've thought about keeping the third quarterback on the roster out of the room. We have two guys that have been in our system (Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin), really sharp. So, I might have to quarantine a quarterback just in case of a quarantine."
If, for instance, Brady tests positive, it's possible any backups in the small quarterbacks' room would also need to be quarantined for a time period.
Arians' ponderance highlights the vast array of mysterious potential situations surrounding the upcoming season.
Is it worth the risk for teams to keep all three QBs in the same room and potentially lose them all for a week or more during the season? Is it safer to keep a rostered player out of the facility (and hope he doesn't catch the virus via another avenue) in case someone in that room tests positive? Should a team keep their normal number of QBs in the room to study and prep for games, and instead have a free-agent signal-caller on speed-dial who might be familiar with the system and could be signed in an emergency? Can the punter play quarterback in a pinch?
It seems inevitable that some NFL players will be diagnosed with coronavirus at some point during the season -- league officials have admitted as much. How the league and teams plan to handle those situations remains a big unknown.
When the NFL sent teams a memo this week detailing potential plans to allow players to return to facilities, testing procedures and treatments for those who test positive remained topics that the league is still determining a course of action.
Coaches are notoriously exhaustive planners, most attempting to consider every possible eventuality and a solution to each potential problem in advance. It's not a surprise that Arians -- and presumably others -- would consider keeping a quarterback away from the facility as a safety measure. It's the most vital position in sports. Ensuring your team doesn't lose the entire room in one quarantine could be worth forcing the third-string player to Zoom into every meeting, as annoying as that might be for him this season.
Losing, for instance, a starting and backup linebacker for a week or so wouldn't be ideal for any team, but it's something coaches could manage easier than losing an entire QB depth chart.
The truth of the matter as we sit in mid-June is that there are still more questions than answers at this stage. Coaches like Arians are left pondering all conceivable outcomes until further direction is given.