one month from tonight. The Houston Texans likely will be significant underdogs at Super Bowl champion Kansas City, and rightfully so. But the important thing in 2020 is something else, on the weekend we passed 5 million documented COVID-19 cases as a country. It’s actually whether Houston-Kansas City, and the 268 NFL games after that, will be played.

“I believe Week 1 will happen,” J.J. Watt told me the other day. “I’m optimistic.”

I think so too. There’s good reason to be optimistic, at least for this season to kick off. The NFL Players Association reported that as of Thursday, 56 players had tested positive for the virus, including pre-camp and daily testing once camp started; the majority of those players returned to their teams, virus-free. But the key, obviously, will be how players handle more post-training-camp freedom once they’re in regular-season mode.

More about a new twist, a potential COVID-19 kitchen cabinet for Roger Goodell, later in the column. On Thursday, I spent the day virtually with the Houston Texans, to see what a team is going through to prepare for a most unusual season. Talk about enlightening. My day included learning about facial-recognition software, John Lewis, Rock The Vote, a schedule accommodating five distinct teams-within-a-team, the mental guilt of players and staff about bringing the virus into a team, what the biggest adjustment to COVID camp is for a head coach, one hour (just one hour) spent together as a team all day, and a rookie from Penn State who seems pretty wise.

Read more…