ProFootball Doc: Three Crazy NFL Situations in Crazy 2020

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Nothing symbolizes the crazy year that is 2020 better than these three current NFL situations: 

1) The Patriots are practicing and playing two games in California, while the 49ers have moved to Arizona to practice and play their next two “home” games. Of course California is a big state, and it is actually Santa Clara County that has temporarily forbidden contact sports. Los Angeles County has not, which explains the unique circumstance. 

New England dominated the Chargers last Sunday, stayed in California to practice at UCLA and now play the Rams tonight. Neither team has to travel, but the Rams are the healthier side. Cam Akers should play, so only left tackle Andrew Whitworth will be missing on offense. The Patriots are a weakened, COVID opt-out team with a smattering of injuries, as indicated on the Injury Index (be sure to use the hover feature to get all the injury details). Because of these injuries, the Rams -5 seems to be the right side.

2) Dez Bryant was pulled off the field Tuesday just as he was about to play his old team. Dez and many on social media immediately wondered, “How come the game Tuesday was still played?” The answer from the NFL is that they did contact tracing, and since there were no other high-risk individuals, it was safe to play once Dez was removed.

The closeness of the COVID testing lab to the Ravens facility allowed for same-day results. The irony is that most other teams usually receive their returned PCR tests the next day. The efficiency of the Baltimore testing process cost Dez a chance to show his old team what he can still do.

My question is: how did the NFL do the contact tracing so quickly? They said that Dez was removed from the field within minutes of the positive point of care test. In the Broncos QB debacle in Week 12, Jeff Driskel tested positive on a Thursday, but the other three QBs weren’t identified as high-risk and pulled off the practice field until Saturday. In that case, it took two days. Had they known earlier in the week that Drew Lock and company would not be eligible to play, the Broncos could have at least practiced with their wildcat formation and practiced their college-QB-turned-WR under center. I am sure there is a logical explanation, but I have yet to hear it.

3) Fantasy playoffs are here, and the top fantasy player will likely still be out.
Before this year, Christian McCaffrey was basically injury-free and had a “perfect attendance” record. Now in this crazy year 2020, he will have three multi-week absences for three different injuries. None of his missed time is due to or even related to COVID.

McCaffrey watch — will he or won’t he play this week? — has been a weekly fantasy topic for almost the entire season. A Week 2 high ankle sprain had him out the next six games, prompting weekly in/out discussions. His first game back in Week 9, he suffered an apparent shoulder AC joint and engendered another 4 weeks of active/inactive controversy. Now he has “tweaked” his quad and is limited in practice again.

CMC was the consensus No. 1 fantasy selection, and the thought was that at least his shoulder would be 100% this week, and he could finally reward his drafters with fantasy playoff production. Now, by my analysis, McCaffrey will likely miss another stretch with this quad injury. The Panthers have been conservative with their young star and will likely continue that trend and sit him.

With only three weeks left in this crazy 2020, we hope 2021 brings some normalcy.

Written by Dr. David Chao

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

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