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Omar Kelly: Sports like football provide a chance for us to regain some normalcy during COVID-19 pandemic

Omar Kelly: Sports like football provide a chance for us to regain some normalcy during COVID-19 pandemic

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The NFL shield logo is seen following a news conference held by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston on February 1, 2017.

The NFL shield logo is seen following a news conference held by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston on February 1, 2017. (Tim Bradbury/Getty Images/TNS)

Football should be the easy part.

It is a sport. It is entertainment.

It's a game that's supposed to bring joy, and relief from life's stresses, right?

Returning to some semblance of normalcy in this global pandemic caused by the continuous spread of the novel coronavirus, and doing it in the midst of a chaotic economy, and with a side order of race-relations issues and a social justice crisis, requires sports.

It almost essential to see two lines full of 300-pounders wrestling at the line at scrimmage, and gawk at a quarterback throwing a jump ball to an athletic receiver in the back of the end zone just as he escaped the cornerback defending him.

Even if fans aren't in the stands - and there's a good possibility that might be the case all season - sports are supposed to be our escape from real-life issues, which is why the NFL's journey to kickoff the 2020 season - whether it actually happens or not - is healthy for our psyche.

Instead of stressing about your job instability, the upcoming elections, or how soon a vaccine can be found for COVID-19, we're supposed to be obsessing about when Tua Tagovailoa will make his first start for the Dolphins, and if Dolphins owner Steve Ross spending nearly $250 million in the offseason will deliver a playoff team.

The challenge is getting to kickoff against the New England Patriots on Sept. 13, and the sacrifices that must be made to get there.

A virtual offseason program has led to a slow start to all training camps, and players and coaches fear injuries could ramp up.

There's daily COVID-19 testing the first few weeks, and the testing will only reduce if the number of infected players, coaches and personnel is low. Stay tuned for those results.

The coronavirus has turned every NFL facility upside down as these franchises work to keep players safe. Some teams have even moved their training camp to the team's stadiums to foster better social distancing.

The Dolphins have overhauled their Davie facility, putting Plexiglas between every locker stall, and in team meeting areas in an effort to create a safe environment.

Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that any of these safeguarding efforts will be enough, which explains why some players are opting out of playing this season.

But as one league executive stressed, "we're safer at work. Where else do you know where employees are getting tested daily?"

"One person can bring in the virus and it can spread like wildfire," Dolphins coach Brian Flores said Wednesday. "We all understand that. Each one of us has a responsibility. If you enter the facility, you have a responsibility to the other 150, 180, 200 other people who are in the facility. We need to be smart and make good decisions. Our guys understand that."

Flores then acknowledged each individual player can do everything right - limiting his exposure to the outside world - and still become infected, and create an outbreak that could threaten the season because too much is unknown about the virus, and how its spreading.

"That's just how this is," Flores added. "(Be safe and) we'd all have peace of mind knowing that we've done everything possible that we can do individually."

And that's just so the NFL can give this season a chance, since it represents normalcy being restored until a vaccine is created, approved and distributed.

The product on the field probably won't be as polished as it usually is. The season could very well be shortened, or paused because of an outbreak. Players might need to be isolated under a bubble community like the one the NBA, WNBA, and MLS are using, and it would still be worth it because we need sports.

"Everyone is hurting right now and we realize this is our best chance to resume some semblance of normalcy. There isn't an industry that isn't hurting right now," said Texans safety Michael Thomas, a former Dolphin who has been a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee since 2018. "America needs football, and many of us (players) need the game too."

However many games this season can handle before an outbreak happens, or states shut communities down again, is as many as should be played.

Not to determine which franchises will compete in the Super Bowl, or which player deserves to be named MVP.

We need football because obsessing about our fantasy football teams, and discovering whether Bill Belichick can win without Tom Brady will help our society get back to feeling normal.

And that is the starting point towards improving our mental health.

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