Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers counterpart Tom Brady have arrived at Raymond James Stadium ahead of Super Bowl LV, which is no small feat given the toll coronavirus took on the NFL this season.
It took nearly 1 million COVID tests, thousands of Zoom meetings, a dozen or so rescheduled games and an untold amount of flexibility for the NFL to not miss a single of its 269 regular-season and postseason games in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.
Game No. 269, the Super Bowl, is fascinating for the quarterback matchup of young (Mahomes) vs. old (Brady); but also for the 22,000 socially distanced fans in attendance as the NFL becomes the last of the country’s four major professional sports leagues to declare a champion amid the pandemic.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady walks on the field before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes walks on the field during warm up hours before the AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs play the NFC Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the National Football League Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa
Both Tom Brady (left) and Patrick Mahomes (right) wore shades to Super Bowl LV, but only the Chiefs QB was wearing a mask
Around 22,000 socially distanced fans will be at the first (and hopefully last) Super Bowl of the pandemic era
General view of the pirate ship before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium
A vaccinated doctor from Florida who didn’t give her name holds up a sign outside of Raymond James Stadium on Sunday
The NFL and society, in general, are hoping America’s biggest sports celebration won’t turn into the mother of superspreader events, either at the stadium or at the inevitable thousands of high-fiving, chip-dipping, hug-it-out Super Bowl parties planned across the land.
With the reality that the most important results of the Super Bowl — the spike, or lack of spike, in COVID numbers — wouldn’t be known until well after the final score was posted and most of the $4.3 billion in expected wagers are settled, the NFL still scored points by merely making it to the finish line without any major disruptions.
‘The fact that every team played the correct number of games. and that most people did not get sick, is a real testament to their perseverance in making it happen,’ said Dennis Deninger, who teaches a Super Bowl and Society class for Syracuse’s sports management department.
The resiliency of the players and the league stood out as a bright note this winter, as the coronavirus ravaged the United States and the world. The NFL’s ability to keep the show moving — albeit imperfectly — reinforced the sport’s strong footing in American culture. It also generated debate about whether the country and the league have their priorities straight, given that resources devoted to playing football could have conceivably been expended elsewhere.
‘In some ways, you say, it doesn’t feel right to be talking about sports and thinking about sports in the middle of a pandemic,’ said Ketra Armstrong, the director at University of Michigan’s Center for Race and Ethnicity in Sport. ‘But when you think the role sports can play for the psyche of the country, and you understand the level people are going to to deliver sports, you can appreciate’ the effort the NFL made to make the season happen.
And, in fact, the NFL’s efforts benefitted more than simply the league’s own interests. Using as a backbone of its research the approximately 957,000 tests it conducted on more than 7,500 players and employees, the NFL collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control to publish a paper describing testing protocols, mitigation strategies and contact-tracing measures that could also be useful in ‘high-density environments’ such as schools and long-term care facilities.
A key conclusion from the paper was that ‘although the protocols implemented by the NFL were resource-intensive’ — i.e., the league had plenty of money and manpower to implement a testing program few other organizations would dream of — many of the lessons learned were valuable.
Fans social distance as they watch a stage show before Sunday’s Super Bowl LV between the Chiefs and Buccaneers
All fans were required to wear masks, although this Kansas City Chiefs fan opted against the N95 model
A Chiefs fan behind cutouts of fans in Raymond James Stadium hours before the AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs play the NFC Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers
‘The idea was to test frequently, to identify when you had a positive, and to isolate and trace closely if you did,’ commissioner Roger Goodell said, while taking a victory lap of sorts earlier in the week at his annual Super Bowl news conference. ‘We don’t think there was a safer place to be than at an NFL facility that year. We never doubted that for a second.’
The season was far from perfect. Because of rescheduling, there were games played on every day of the week, including Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The Titans, Ravens, Browns and Steelers were among those that endured high-profile outbreaks that threatened not only their rosters but the league’s entire operation. In the season’s biggest debacle, the Broncos were forced to play a game with a wide receiver playing quarterback after everyone in the QB group got put under quarantine on late notice.
Goodell said all decisions were made in service of prioritizing safety over everything, including the NFL’s longstanding calling-card — competitive balance.
And yet, as Goodell pointed out, offense came at a record pace, and 70 percent of this season’s games were decided by eight points or less — reinforcing that, even in a pandemic, anyone can beat anyone on any given Sunday in the NFL.
As the playoffs wore on, some developments started feeling more normal, even if they didn’t always reflect well on the league.
There was the weeklong wait to see if Mahomes would play in the AFC championship game following his placement in the league’s much-debated ‘concussion protocol’ after his head slammed to the turf in the previous week’s win. Mahomes returned a week after the scary incident and led the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.
The two biggest off-field news items centered on a high-stakes quarterback carousel, with marquee signal-callers Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford swapping teams (Goff to the Lions and Stafford to the Rams) and DeShaun Watson of the Texans demanding a trade.
It likely won’t feel like a home game, due to crowd restrictions, the Bucs are the first team to play a Super Bowl on their field
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Kansas City Chiefs – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida, U.S. – February 7, 2021 Fans wearing protective face masks are surrounded by cut-out photographs of fans to maintain social distancing due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) before the game
More troubling was the annual reminder of the NFL’s generally lackluster record in hiring minorities for coaching and front-office positions.
Buccaneers fans arrive at Super Bowl LV prior on Sunday, February 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes walks across the Super Bowl LV logo before Super Bowl LV against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium
One of the most consistent defensive lineman over the last decade, Tampa Bay’s Ndamukong Suh (right) warms up on Sunday
‘We had two minority coaches hired and it was not what we expected,’ the commissioner said of the seven head-coaching vacancies in the league this year. ‘And not what we expect going forward.’
It undermined progress made earlier in the season when Goodell, taking the temperature of a country agitated by increasing calls for social justice, conceded that the league should have paid more heed to Colin Kaepernick when he started his own form of protest by kneeling on the sidelines four seasons ago.
‘We know the NFL has failed miserably in many regards in being socially responsible, culturally responsible and showing it has a racial conscience,’ Armstrong said. ‘What you hope is that they can take advantage of this unique moment to maximize the power of sport. There’s a lot they can do. A lot more they should do.’
Clearly, though, the focus of this season was not on the NFL’s imperfections, but rather on the games themselves. With a few months to see what other sports did right and wrong, the NFL came up with a plan, revised it, revised it again, and got all its games in, albeit in front of mostly empty stadiums. Goodell said a total of 1.2 million people attended games that, in a normal season, would have been seen live by up to 17 million.
The capper to it all was a marquee matchup, to be played before a crowd of 22,000, featuring the two biggest names in football: Brady vs. Mahomes.
‘The NFL, and a lot of sports, served as examples for organizations in corporate America about how, if you put your mind to it, you can find ways to contain the virus, and continue doing what you do,’ Deninger said.
PICTURED: CRITICALLY INJURED FIVE-YEAR-OLD GIRL LEFT IN A COMA AFTER BEING HIT BY CHIEFS ASSISTANT WHO WAS ‘DRINKING AND DRIVING’ – AS HEAD COACH FATHER ANDY REID PREPARES FOR SUPER BOWL LV MATCHUP VS. BUCCANEERS
By Frances Mulraney for DailyMail.com
The five-year-old girl critically injured and left in a coma after a car crash involving Kansas City Chiefs’ assistant coach Britt Reid on Thursday night has been pictured for the first time, as she is named locally as Ariel.
The young girl was in the back of a car that Reid allegedly crashed into after he had ‘two to three drinks’ on his prescription Adderall, according to KSHB.
An unnamed four-year-old was also in the back seat of the car and was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Britt was also hospitalized but his injuries have not been revealed.
Britt, 35, did not accompany the Kansas City Chiefs and his father, head coach Andy Reid, as they touched down at the Super Bowl on Saturday afternoon, flying into town a day before they defend their title against the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The team confirmed on Saturday that Britt was not making the trip to Tampa and that he was involved in a multi-vehicle pile-up in Missouri that resulted in the injury of two young children.
The crash happened on an entrance ramp one exit south of the Chiefs’ practice facility.
Reid, who is reported to have previous DUI, drug and gun charges, is now being investigated to determine whether he was impaired at the time of the crash.
Ariel’s family said that she has not woken up since the crash on Thursday night and suffered severe brain trauma
Ariel’s family has since started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for her medical expenses and to help her single mother as she misses work to stay but the young girl’s side.
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker’s coach Britt Reid has not traveled to the Super Bowl after being involved in a car crash in which a five-year-old girl was critically injured
Ariel, 5, was reported to be critically injured in the crash. A four-year-old was also injured
The Chiefs confirmed in a statement on Friday night that the crash involving Reid left a 5-year-old in critical condition at an area hospital and injured a 4-year-old child.
‘The organization has been made aware of a multi-vehicle accident involving Outside Linebackers Coach, Britt Reid,’ the statement read.
‘We are in the process of gathering information, and we will have no further comment at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved.’
The crash took place just after 9pm on Thursday night on Interstate 435 near Eastwood Trafficway, close to the Truman Sports Complex where the Chiefs were wrapping up final practices.
The police reported that a Chevrolet Impala had run out of gas and parked in the entrance ramp from Stadium Drive to I-435 as they called family to help.
When family arrived, they parked a Chevrolet Traverse in front of the stranded vehicle.
Reid told police that he was driving a white Dodge Ram Laramie Sport pickup truck that struck the left side of the Impala as the driver tried to get it up and running.
The driver had been in the car at the time Reid struck the vehicle but did not suffer any injuries.
The report states that Reid’s Ram than continued to strike the parked Traverse where two children were sitting in the backseat.
The Kansas City Police Department (KCDP) said in a statement that a 5-year-old child injured in the accident was in critical condition, and a 4-year-old suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
They were transported to hospital to be treated for their injuries. An adult was also sitting in the front of the second car but was not injured.
The five-year-old has been named locally as Ariel and is said to have suffered brain trauma
The five-year-old has been named locally as a girl named Ariel, whose family said she has not woken up since the crash.
She is said to have suffered severe brain trauma and the family has set up a GoFundMe page to cover her medical expenses.
The GoFundMe, which was verified by the company to the Kansas City Star, has raised more tahn $71,000 as of Saturday night.
‘She is still in very critical condition. Her mother is a single mom of 3, she will be in the hospital for the foreseeable future, this is set up for the hospital bills and weeks of missed work she will have, anything to help her family who is suffering so much right now because one man chose to drink and drive,’ wrote page creator Tiffany Verhulst who said she was a cousin of Ariel’s mother.
‘No child deserves to go through this, nor should any mother have to see her child like this.’
According to the warrant, officers could smell ‘a moderate odor of alcoholic beverages’ from Reid when they arrived at the scene and noted that his eyes were blood shot.
Reid told officers that he had two to three drinks and informed them of his Adderall prescription.
The warrant also states that an officer noted signs of impairment in Reid.
The assistant coach was taken to the hospital after the crash after complaining of stomach pains but his injuries are described as non-life-threatening.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid arrives with his team for the Super Bowl on Saturday
This not the first time Reid has had trouble with the law over potential drinking and driving.
In 2007, then aged 22, Reid was sentenced to eight to 23 months in jail, plus five years’ probation, on gun and drug charges.
It came after he pointed a handgun at another driver following a dispute, according to ESPN.
Reid pleaded guilty to carrying an unlicensed firearm, simple assault, possession of a controlled substance and possession of an instrument of crime in connection with the incident.
According to KSHB, Reid had been arrested again seven months later and charged with DUI: controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
His bail was revoked from the first arrest and he again pleaded guilty, receiving a sentence of one to six months in February 2008.
Pennsylvania court records show that he was fined more than $10,000 for the two incidents and ordered to complete Drug Court, which he did in July 2012.
ESPN reported that as Britt and his brother Garret Reid were sentenced following the first arrest in 2007, a judge likened their father’s home to a ‘drug emporium’ as he questioned whether the adult sons should live there.
At the time, Garrett, who was described as a drug addict and dealer, was sentenced after crashing into another car while high on heroin.
The publication claimed that the brothers ‘overmedicated throughout much of their lives’ and that Britt became hooked on painkillers after suffering a football injury in high school.
‘It sounds more or less like a drug emporium there, with the drugs all over the house, and you’re an addict,’ Judge O’Neill told Britt.
A ground crew member waves a Tampa Bay Buccaneers flag as the Kansas City Chiefs arrive in Tampa
Britt Reid told officers he had been drinking before the crash and take Adderall
The Chiefs said on Saturday they were still in the information-gathering process and had no further comment on Thursday’s crash.
Britt Reid has been with the team since his father was hired by the franchise in 2013.
He initially worked as a defensive quality control coach before he was promoted to assistant defensive line coach in 2015.
He served as defensive line coach between 2016 and 2018 before moving to outside linebacker’s coach.
Reid is a Temple University graduate who served as a training camp intern for the Philadelphia Eagles on his father’s staff in 2009.
He has received two tickets for speeding while working with the Chiefs – first in 2014 and again in 2018.
Charges have not been filed following the crash but if they are, it will come long after the Superbowl.
‘Most criminal investigations take weeks to investigate. This is no different,’ said KCDP media unit spokesperson Captain Dave Jackson in a statement.
‘Prosecutors typically would like a completed case file in order to file charges or decline, depending on what the evidence would indicate.
‘In cases like this that may include toxicology, crash reconstruction, witness statements and a variety of other related pieces.’
The accident did not appear to be a distraction for the Chiefs, with a pool report indicating players appeared in good spirits during the morning walk-through session.
‘Good energy,’ Andy Reid said. ‘It’s important to have that.
‘This was just kind of a review day, so we go back through all the situations and make sure we have all those covered.’
United Airlines crew members pose for a photo at the door of the plane with a flag that reads ‘Bring It Back,’ after delivering the Kansas City Chiefs to Tampa International Airport for the Super Bowl on Sunday
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chiefs opted to spend Super Bowl week at home and fly to Tampa only the day before the NFL championship game.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL had teams delay traveling into the host city until Friday at the earliest as a safety and health precaution measure.
The Chiefs instead chose to come on Saturday, repeating their itinerary from earlier in the season when they beat Tom Brady and the Bucs 27-24 on November 29.
‘Saturday night is just looking for ways to sleep, honestly, because there´s a lot of excitement, a lot of energy that you build up to throughout the weekend,’ Chiefs defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon said earlier in the week.
‘The key is just letting it out on the road at the right time on Sunday.’
Teams playing in the Super Bowl usually arrive as much as a week before the game to practice, hold meetings and participate in media availabilities in or near the host city.
Both teams did that at their home facilities this year, fulfilling all media responsibilities through video calls during the week, instead of the usual in-person sessions jam-packed with reporters.
The Chiefs took two planes – to maintain proper social distancing protocols – with most of the coaches and players on the first that landed at Tampa International Airport around 4:38 p.m. – less than just 26 hours before kickoff.
The team then filed into 10 buses – two waves of five each – both with police escorts, which carried the coaches, players, and staff for the 7-mile trip to their hotel in downtown Tampa.
They were greeted around 5:23 p.m. by a few hundred cheering fans – several with masks but many without and many decked out in Chiefs jerseys and T-shirts, some in Bucs gear – gathered on the four corners closest to the main entrance of the hotel, which featured several red and gold window wraps around the entrances.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes arrives in Tampa on Saturday ahead of the Superbowl