There are so many factors that have gone into the NFL reaching this point, with Covid-related issues almost nonexistent within days of kickoff and the league exceeding all expectations in regards to dealing with the pandemic thus far. But, perhaps, the most important reason of all has, in my opinion, gone largely overlooked. It hasn't been talked about nearly enough and it's time to give credit where its due. The players are the product when it comes to the NFL, and from July until this weekend's roster cut down, about 80 of them on each roster have been meeting and practicing across 32 NFL team headquarters (across the country) and they have managed to handle this virus with aplomb.
Do not for one minute discount the role that positive peer pressure, and player leadership and mentoring and stewardship have played in this outcome. It has been paramount and league-wide. It has been, frankly, staggering. If the league is going to proceed and games are going to be played and paychecks are going to be distributed, it would take a massive collective effort to make decisions that would mitigate risk and benefit the collective.
And we've seen it work in ways many we could have predicted. Human nature is what it is and it's easy to make a misstep and, especially being young, healthy and in many cases -- wealthy young men, too, it might be expected that a few might decide to flout protocols or be found among a throng of mask-less patrons at a club or large function. It would only be natural if there was a spreader event of some kind or an outbreak the likes of which Major League Baseball has had to deal with.
The reality is, Covid-19 had been wrecking pretty much every other sports calender and with the NFL requiring far more humanity to get through a single practice -- let alone a game -- than several other sports combined, one may have expected there to be a team or two shut down for a week or more. Yet there has been nothing.
That's pretty amazing this far in, and while things may change a bit as games are played and teams start traveling, I wouldn't anticipate a drastic shift in player behaviors. It may be that there is the exposure of players or team officials to the virus, given how it has spread across this country since the spring, and maintaining numbers this low might be impossible.
No one should be playing the blame game if problems do arise or jumping to conclusions about how or why it was spread (absent conclusive proof via contact tracing). That's not the point. But it should most certainly be pointed out just how effective this non-bubble has proven to be up until this point, and how pervasive the buy-in has been from players across the league, and how at a time when many seem quick to point a finger at those perceived to be doing the wrong thing, we should certainly shine a light on what teams and players are doing to try to prevent some of the situations that have derailed other sports.
The timing of starting late and getting to learn from what has worked, and not worked, from other sports leagues in this country and abroad has certainly helped. It's part of the equation. But without the players themselves serving to lift and police and motivate one another; it may have all been for naught. So kudos to all involved for reaching Week 1 in such an overwhelmingly healthy fashion, and allowing this season to kick off as planned. Well done.
Bold call on Murray
I'm saying it here -- Kyler Murray is going to have a monster season. He will be perceived as an absolute top 10 starting QB by January.
Clowney was fighting a losing battle
Jadaveon Clowney had some factors working against him in the market, in particular the inability to travel for a team physical as normal at the start of free agency due to the pandemic. Given his injury history, that was a thing. But the biggest issue was not having realistic expectations of the market. I heard consistently that he was in a best case scenario, maybe a $15M a year guy, and once the big free agent money was spent, teams had a $10-12M valuation on him, and that wasn't likely going to change in his favor. And it didn't. I have yet to see the full contract but have heard it does not include more than $12M in guaranteed money. The Titans were one of his most persistent suitors, but even they never got close to the $20M hemisphere Clowney was initially seeking and which always seemed misguided.
Ramsey will set CB extension market
There is plenty of buzz about how close Jalen Ramsey will get to what he wants from the Rams in his contract extension. There are differing opinions as to whether that's attainable for the corner, but doesn't sound like he will be all that far off either way. Once that deal gets done, expect several others to be completed as well. The Seahawks are engaged with Shaquill Griffin and the Saints are as well with Marshon Lattimore, who both will be looking to best the extension signed by Tre'Davious White with the Bills. Baltimore's Maron Humphrey is also eligible for a new deal, with three completed seasons, but I would not be surprised if that is something that goes down in 2021. The sides are talking but are not nearly as far along as some of these other corner negotiations.
2021 cap issues likely for two teams
I know this season has just begun, and things could change between now and then, and maybe all sides find a way to gin up the salary cap in 2021, somehow, but the Saints and Steelers are among teams that look to be right up against it, at least as things stand right now. Some chatter among other clubs about how those teams will navigate beyond this season.
Jaguars might not be done just yet
Are the Jags absolutely done trading away veterans? At least a few GMs I've talked to aren't convinced. I do think the first overall pick comes down to them and the Washington Football Team.