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Buffalo Bills: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Upcoming Season

The Buffalo Bills 2020 season is proceeding as scheduled. However, in what manner will it take place? There are so many variables and factors to consider as the entire league heads into uncharted waters. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the precautionary measures and changes will impact how teams operate.

How does COVID-19 effect the NFL Draft

The Buffalo Bills are entering new territory in a COVID-19 sports landscape. Will the changes brought on by the pandemic impact the team this season?

On Monday morning, the NFL issued protocols to teams laying out plans for players’ returning to club facilities. The NFLPA hasn’t agreed yet to these new guidelines.

NFL COVID-19 Team Protocols

– All player lockers must be six feet apart.

– Teams must conduct virtual meetings when possible.

– Teams must restrict all areas of the facility. This includes practice and stadium playing fields and sidelines, locker rooms, training rooms, exam rooms, lounge areas, and weight rooms.

– Masks are required for all personnel except when interfacing with athletic activities.

– All shoulder pads, helmets, and player equipment must be disinfected after each practice/game.

Virtual isolation practiced by top tier employees and players to minimize the risk of infection.

– No dates are set yet for minicamps, but the NFL is discussing the possibility of rookies and new veteran signings reporting to club facilities in late June for physicals.

Buffalo Bills Training Camp

The start date for Bills’ training camp has yet to be determined, but the location has. For the first time in the franchise’s history, Bills training camp will be at the team’s facility ‘One Bills Drive’ in Orchard Park.

The NFL has decided that all training camps must happen at team facilities this year. It’s a break from tradition for the Bills, who’ve held their camp at St. John Fisher College for the last two decades.

Based on the medical assessment of risk factors amid the pandemic, the NFL and experts determined that the limit of travel would minimize exposure risks.

During a press conference last Wednesday, Bills Head Coach, Sean McDermott, commented on the change in his teams’ training camp.

“I support it,” McDermott said. “I respect that the NFL has a vision and has the foresight to get out in front of things so we can plan accordingly.”

McDermott also stated, however, that he’s a fan of going away for camp and not doing so hurts the team-building process.

“Getting away, I think, builds fellowship and camaraderie,” said McDermott. “And you share an experience, and anytime you can share an experience, I think that bodes well for building community, chemistry and the like, which are so important, I think, for building a good team.”

As a result of travel limitations, joint workouts with other franchises will not occur. Last summer, the Bills held joint practices with the Panthers in South Carolina.

Bills Home Field Advantage

Fans or no Fans? The NFL hasn’t mentioned if fans will be allowed to attend training camps this summer. You can probably guess which way that’s going.

The more important question is, will fans be at the games? If for whatever reason, fans can’t attend NFL games because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most significant factors in determining wins and losses disappears.

Even if fans are permitted to attend games, questions arise, like whether states will limit overall gatherings at games or, ultimately, if the public will feel less inclined to take their chances of exposure in large crowd settings. Without fans at games, the NFL essentially becomes a neutral site league. As a result, The Bills lose a significant competitive advantage. Traveling to Buffalo to face the Bills would not pose as challenging a task for opposing teams. Other than travel and working on a short week. If no fans are at the games, getting the world champion, Kansas City Chiefs in your building will have very little significance. Patrick Mahomes will not have to deal with the noise of a rabid Bills crowd.

Since 2017, The Bills are just 14-10 at home—a 58.3 win-percentage. Buffalo is tied with Seattle and Indianapolis for the 12th best home record in the league during that span. The results are not exactly something to rejoice about but with the Bills back to being legit contenders. Losing the added edge of playing at home would hurt Buffalo.

Team/Season Preparation

The pandemic is going to change how teams get ready for the upcoming NFL season. Fortunately for the Bills, they are in the same boat as the other 31 NFL teams, when it comes to preparing for the season and getting all the players on the same page.

In Buffalo’s favor, in this regard, is that they are no longer a rebuilding team. Nor do they have the hurdles that most franchises face going into a new season.

Very few franchises have the continuity advantage that the Bills have heading into this unprecedented season. Every year, A good number of NFL teams undergo significant changes. From coaching staffs and schemes to roster changes. Franchises need training camp and the preseason to get up to speed with all their new parts. When it comes to the Buffalo Bills, this will not be an issue for them.

The Bills have an established staff, and their central core of players is in place already. Franchise Quarterback, Josh Allen has some new parts to play with, like star wide-receiver, Stefon Diggs but this is Allen’s third year in, Offensive Coordinator, Brian Daboll’s system. The transition period will be minimal.

Since 2017, the Bills defense has been coordinated by, Assistant Head Coach, Leslie Frazier. Along with the guidance of, Head Coach, Sean McDermott. Buffalo has one of the league’s better defenses. The system is a strong one, and the mainstays of the unit have experience and chemistry on their side.

In a new landscape that will see teams’ practice less. Having familiar schemes and players will be crucial to success.

Final Analysis

The Bills seem best equipped to handle the season in a COVID-19 world, partly because of their team continuity and chemistry. The challenges and difficulties in operating under these circumstances will not be as difficult for them as it will be for other non-established franchises.

The one area of discussion that most want to avoid is the possibility that the virus could impact the depth of team rosters. In the past, losing players to injury every week is a given. It’s a massive part of football. Staying healthy and depth has always been vital to a teams’ success. However, sports leagues have never encountered the possibility of a virus causing multiple players to miss time.

The game-day active rosters are expanding from 46 to 48 players. Practice squads are growing from 10 to 12 players this season. At some point, the NFL and NFLPA may need to consider expanding this further. Especially if there is any form of outbreak amongst the players, a doomsday scenario that no one wants to see.

The hope is that the NFL has a thorough and extensive testing process for all players. Not only can a player infect his teammates but also the players that he plays against every single week. Now more than ever, the medical staffs for each team will take on more importance during the season.

The entire world is entering uncharted territory. Sports leagues are proceeding cautiously forward. The NFL season is going to happen. Merely getting through it on the other side will be an accomplishment, in and of itself. The hope for the Bills is that they get to the other side as champions.

You can follow me on Twitter @MMFBWriter!

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