Coronavirus sports roundup: NFLPA ranks Arizona as No. 2 hotspot; Spencer Rattler-led Sooners healthy

The NFL Players Association is worried about competition in COVID-19 hotspots, including the Phoenix area, where the Cardinals play at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. (Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – On the same day the NFL Players Association reported 72 positive tests for league athletes, it shared a map that tagged Phoenix as the No. 2 hotspot for the virus among the 32 metropolitan areas where the NFL plays.

The NFLPA has voiced concerns about players reporting to training camp on July 28 in some of the country’s most hard-hit cities. The Arizona Cardinals rank second behind the Miami Dolphins. The New England Patriots were last, and the New York Jets and Giants were second-to-last.

NFL owners are scheduled to meet Friday.

The players association already has stated its desire to eliminate all preseason games because of the continued rise in COVID-19 cases.

“Every decision this year that prioritizes normalcy over innovation, custom over science or even football over health, significantly reduces our chances of completing the full season,” Cleveland center JC Tretter, the NFLPA’s president, wrote in a message posted to the union’s website. “We don’t want to merely return to work and have the season shut down before we even get started.”

Beyond preseason games and training camps, the NFLPA has other questions about how the NFL will operate. The Boston Globe reported those concerns include:

If a player tests positive for COVID-19, would that be considered a football or a nonfootball related injury? A football injury guarantees a player his entire salary (except bonuses), but a nonfootball injury allows teams to reduce pay.

What happens to players who want to opt out of this upcoming season due to health or other reasons? Do they receive full base salary or a portion?

The 72 players who tested positive make up about 2.5% of total players in the NFL, although the NFLPA did not say how many have been tested.

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Sooners are booming

At the college level, the Oklahoma Sooners tested 98 of their football players and 30 staff members on Wednesday. Nobody has tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 for two weeks now, the university reported.

That news would surely include the team’s two Arizona players, led by Spencer Rattler, who came out of Pinnacle High School as a highly recruited five-star recruit in 2019. He was named the Big 12’s Preseason Newcomer of the Year Thursday after a vote by the league’s news media.

Rattler threw for an Arizona record 11,083 yards as well as 116 total touchdowns in high school. Widely regarded as the No. 1 dual threat quarterback in the nation at the time, the redshirt freshman is projected to be the starting quarterback for the Sooners for the 2020 season.

The other Arizonan on the team is freshman offensive lineman Noah Nelson of Williams Field High School in Gilbert.

The Sooners say they have strict guidelines in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among its players. Those include a team-wide mask wearing policy as well as physically distancing from one another.

Rattler and the Sooners are scheduled to begin their season against Missouri State on Sept. 5, but they may move the game to Aug. 29, the Oklahoman reported.

Will ASU, UArizona play football?

Will Arizona and Arizona State be playing football in 2020?

Although the NCAA issued its next set of return-to-sport guidelines Thursday, the news also came with some words of warning from NCAA President Mark Emmert.

“Today, sadly, the data point in the wrong direction,” he said in a statement. “If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic.”

Brian Hainline, NCAA chief medical officer, added, “Any recommendation on a pathway toward a safe return to sport will depend on the national trajectory of COVID-19 spread. The idea of sport resocialization is predicated on a scenario of reduced or flattened infection rates.”

Thirty-nine states have reported an increase in the number of new cases from the week before, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University.

News Broadcast Producer, Phoenix

Derrick Smith expects to graduate in December 2021 with a degree in journalism and a minor in digital audiences. Smith, who has interned with Hart Talent Management, is working in the Phoenix News Bureau.