Nearly all of the COVID-19 news during training camp has been encouraging, particularly the low number of positives among players and staffs.
With camps ending and the start of the season upon us, the more difficult portion of playing during a pandemic approaches.
During training camps, players are tied up for much of the day in safe buildings and traveling mostly to and from the facility. Now that teams are getting in game-mode, schedules begin to lax, providing more downtime for players, and travel for away games will start.
While the team facilities have been made into mini-bubbles thanks to the advanced protocols put in place by the NFL and NFLPA, what players do in their off-time provides a different set of risks.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 over the summer and said it took him a month to fully recover, told reporters he's confident players will remain safe with their eye on the prize.
"We all are here to play football," Elliott said, via the Dallas Morning News. "We're not going to do anything dumb to jeopardize that. It's really not about you. It's about the guy next to you. You don't want to get that guy sick. You don't want to have him going home to his family and get it. It's more of an accountability thing, just keeping each other accountable. It's not about you. It's about the guys around you in this locker room and their families."
Players and coaches holding each other accountable will go a long way in ensuring the season can be played without a hitch. It's easy to say early in the season that players and coaches won't meander from safety. Twelve weeks from now, if restrictions remain in place, will they be able to say the same? It's simpler for established veterans, particularly those with families, to refrain from putting themselves in precarious spots. How about the 21-year-old rookie who just got a chunk of cash deposited to his bank account for the first time in his life? Will he be able to put the party off?
Elliott believes the extensive testing done by the league will help keep everyone safe and remind them of the serious nature of playing while COVID-19 continues to persist.
"Just with testing, I've been tested every day," Elliott said. "I think obviously being safe while we're here in the facility and social distancing as much as we can. As we depart from camp, that everyone stays as disciplined. And everyone continues to protect everyone on this team and their families."
The team that best protects itself throughout the course of the season will have a leg up on the rest of the league in 2020.