One NFL Team Had Zero Coronavirus Positives. How’d They Do It?

Dedicated leadership and a whole lot of technology, to begin with

football on a field
A football practices social distancing.
Alexxw/Creative Commons

Over the last few months, as various sports leagues around the world have sought to return to something approaching normalcy, news continues to emerge of athletes violating COVID-19 protocols and testing positive for the coronavirus. Even teams playing within league-wide bubbles haven’t necessarily been able to avoid this. And it isn’t hard to see why — elite professional teams are massive operations that go far beyond the players fans see on the field.

And yet, in the latest NFL season, one team pulled off the impressive feat of having no one test positive for the coronavirus. In its own way, that’s as impressive as winning the season; one could argue that it might even be more impressive. Which team was able to pull this off? As Ken Belson writes for The New York Times, the answer is the Seattle Seahawks.

In the early days of the pandemic, Sam Ramsden, Seattle’s director of player health and performance, took care of his wife as she recuperated from what they believe was COVID-19. When the NFL made the decision to hold their 2020 season, Ramsden was named infection control officer, and Belson argues convincingly that Ramsden’s experience seeing the pandemic up close helped to shape his response.

Working in tandem with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, and with innovative uses of technology — including monitoring when players were too close to one another for too long and using apps to eliminate waiting on lines for food — the team was able to develop routines that other NFL squads eventually emulated.

Carroll’s own advocacy with the league helped institute daily coronavirus testing. Belson also notes that Carroll had the team’s position groups compete for the least number of close contacts, with wide receivers emerging victorious.

The entire logistical effort described in the article is staggering in its size — but it worked. And hopefully the lessons learned from this can be applied to keep more people safe in the future.

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