Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

John Harbaugh is right. The Baltimore Ravens head coach said during an interview with a Baltimore radio station that the NFL’s coronavirus protocol is “humanly impossible” to follow to a T.

And after looking at some of those rules, they were obviously drawn up with lawyers and lawsuits in mind instead of blocking, tackling and kicking a football.

“I’ve seen all the memos on that, and to be quite honest with you, it’s impossible what they’re asking us to do. Humanly impossible,” Harbaugh said Thursday on 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore. “We’re going to do everything we can do. We’re going to space, we’re going to have masks. But, you know, it’s a communication sport. So, if we want to get out there and have any idea what we’re going to be able to do, we have to communicate with each other in person. We have to practice.”

To be brief, the league, via rules sent out to teams last week, said teams will have to keep their players at least six feet apart at all times when they are not on the field. They will continue to hold meetings between coaches and players virtually when they are not on the field. They will have to have space between themselves and others when in the team facility.

They are being told they have to practice social distancing in the locker room, weight room, training room, you name it.

Then, when they are on the football field, all of that will be moot. They’ll be playing football, tackling each other, handling the football, etc.

Make sense?

Not to Harbaugh.

“I’m pretty sure the huddle is not going to be six feet spaced,” Harbaugh said. “Are guys going to shower one at a time all day? Are guys going to lift weights one at a time all day? These are things the league and the (NFLPA) need to get a handle on and need to get agreed with some common sense so we can operate in a 13-hour day in training camp that they’re giving us and get our work done. ... I’m a little frustrated with what I’m hearing there. And I think they need to get that pinned down a little better.

As we found out two weeks ago, all training camps will be held at team facilities. Because of these social-distancing issues, the Steelers will hold their training camp at Heinz Field. It’s the only facility they have with the locker room space to fit all 90 players on their roster. And you’d better believe they won’t be the only ones doing so.

After all, with the league mandating that players use only every other locker, 180 lockers will be needed to house preseason rosters. There’s not a facility in the NFL built to hold that many players because they never have to do so.

I get it. The league is being ultra conservative with its most valuable commodity – its players. But guys are going to have to interact with each other physically. It’s football, not tennis.

Former Steelers assistant coach Bruce Arians, now head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, raised an interesting point last week.

He said he might choose to carry three quarterbacks and have one of them stay away from the team facility each week to ensure the team has a player available at the most important position on the field if another quarterback happens to test positive.

A positive test at this point is going to mean a player is immediately shut down. And players will be tested a couple of times each week, with the last test most likely being either Saturday night at the team hotel or the morning of the game.


  • emember when athletes were lauded for being warriors for playing in games with the flu?

That’s not going to fly anymore. It probably shouldn’t have been OK in the past. After all, they risked infecting the rest of the players on the field or court. And, like coronavirus, the flu kills thousands of people each year.

  • If the owners in Major League Baseball and the MLB union were dating, they would have broken things off a long time ago. Nobody else would make as many proposals as they have – seemingly a new one every day – only to be turned down as the league and its players.

It shouldn’t be this difficult. The owners have obvious reasons to want to play. You’d think the players have obvious reasons to want to play.

But Major League Baseball as a whole seems dead set on making sure that it alienates each and every one of its remaining fans.

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter

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