Both John Harbaugh and Tom Brady set great examples with unsportsmanlike behavior

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

You might think Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh and Buccaneers’ quarterback Tom Brady set horrible examples in sportsmanship when they refused to shake their counterparts hands after recent losses. However, since we’re in the midst of a pandemic where social distancing is key, I think they were setting great examples as team leaders.

Both Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh and Buccaneers’ quarterback Tom Brady made headlines following Week 11 losses by their teams against the Titans and Rams, respectively.

Harbaugh made news by not engaging in a postgame handshake with Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel following an overtime loss, while Brady demonstrated that very same behavior by walking off the field rather than shaking the hand of Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff after a narrow defeat on Monday Night Football.

When it comes to Harbaugh, some folks—including my mother, a long-time Harbaugh hater and someone fond of calling the veteran Ravens’ coach something that rhymes with crass—might say he set a poor example for his players (although, I’m certainly not saying that). As for Brady, some people—including a good friend of mine who happens to be a Patriots fan and now refers to Brady as a b*** following his defection to Tampa Bay—might say he didn’t demonstrate G.O.A.T-like behavior by not congratulating Goff (although, I’m certainly not saying that).

I think both my mom and my Patriots friend are wrong. These guys, two legends entrusted with leadership responsibilities on their respective clubs, were simply setting examples in social distancing amid this ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, a pandemic that has placed many games in peril during the 2020 regular season—including Tuesday night’s showdown between the Steelers and Ravens at Heinz Field.

This must have been why Brady also walked off the field without shaking Nick Foles’ hand following a loss to the Bears earlier this season.

Let’s face it, Brady is the savior in Tampa Bay. He’s the reason he has that franchise almost in first place in the NFC South. Brady owes it to his teammates to be virus free all the way through until that inevitable moment when he accepts the Lombardi trophy after winning Super Bowl LIV. You know how Brady loves to show leadership on the sidelines by always screaming at his teammates to “Let’s bleepin go!” What if he has the virus and little droplets come flying out of his mouth and infect the likes of Mike Evans? Furthermore, Antonio Brown is living with Brady at the moment. That’s right, while Ben Roethlisberger wouldn’t even invite AB to his house for a spot of tea, Brady has gone the extra mile for the former Steeler receiver and has opened his home to him fully and completely. What if Brown, a G.O.A.T in his own right, a player who has also demonstrated good leadership skills in the past by alerting his quarterbacks to his openness by throwing Gatorade buckets and Tweeting stuff, catches the COVID? There goes that super team. There goes the Buccaneers’ second Super Bowl title.

As for Harbaugh, it has been said that he’s the kind of head coach who always does more with less; by not shaking Vrabel’s hand, he was essentially saying to his players: “Hey, no partying or socializing. You guys be smart.” It was genius, and his actions were way more effective than Mike Tomlin’s words.

Besides, what happens if Harbaugh contracts the virus and needs a transfusion or something? I would think his brother, Jim Harbaugh (like John, someone who clearly inherited the crass gene), would be a match and a top candidate to donate blood. Can you imagine having to rely on Jim Harbaugh for your physical well-being? I’d be cautious, too, if I were John.

So, there you have it. While you may want to pile on both Harbaugh and Brady for behavior that you perceived to be very unsportsmanlike, I certainly will not be doing that.

It’s simple: NFL players, coaches and trainers need to get serious about following COVID protocols

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

If you want the NFL’s 2020 regular season and postseason to see a completion, players, coaches and trainers need to start following the COVID protocols totally and completely. Opinions don’t matter. Having a complete season does.

Steelers fans are mad as hell, and some want to walk up to Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh and sock him right in the nose.

I hear ya, there. I want to do that, too, but mainly because he’s a Harbaugh. As for the other people that want to punch him in the nose, their motivation stems from anger over the Steelers’ game—the Thanksgiving Night special that was ultimately (and, seemingly, finally) moved to Tuesday evening due to countless Ravens’ players and staff members either testing positive for COVID-19 or winding up in quarantine due to contact tracing—being moved again to Wednesday afternoon at 3:40 p.m.

They’re angry about the hypocrisy over the Ravens’ game being pushed back, seemingly due to Harbaugh and his players crying, whining and reportedly threatening a wildcat strike, while other compromised matchups had to go on as scheduled—including Sunday’s quarterback-depleted contest between the Broncos and Saints.

Again, I hear ya. It’s stupid. The NFL’s response to the current COVID crisis has been all over the place. But while the NFL’s response has been frustrating more often than not, we do know that it’s going to respond. We might not like how inconsistent the responses have been, but we do know it’s going to react to positive tests, contract tracing, breaches of protocol, etc. And if this latest scheduling fiasco involving the Steelers and Ravens has taught us anything, it’s that the NFL will not force teams to forfeit games. The league doesn’t even appear to be willing to pull the trigger on a full-fledged cancellation, which could lead to a Week 18. Why? Because that could ultimately lead to a Week 27 if we continue to have situations like this pop up from now until Week 17. Apparently, it’s willing to continue to push games back, day after day, until it has exhausted the resource of time.

Maybe the NFL has been inconsistent with its response to COVID, but that doesn’t change the fact that players, coaches, trainers, etc. have also been inconsistent with following the rules.

The inability to follow the rules is what caused every single Broncos’ signal caller to be placed into quarantine for the game against New Orleans, a 31-3 laugher in-which a practice squad player—Kendall Hinton, a backup quarterback in college before converting to receiver—completed one pass as the emergency quarterback. Jeff Driskel tested positive for COVID, last week, and it was revealed that he and his fellow quarterbacks—including starter Drew Lock—were hanging out and holding meetings while not wearing masks.

Had those guys simply followed the rules, maybe one of them would have been eligible to play against the Saints.

Just wear the darn masks. Just follow the darn rules.

And that is why I want to punch the next person I see who is wearing a mask underneath his or her nose (well, maybe not punch them, but certainly squirt hot sauce into their nostrils).

Everyone has an opinion on COVID-19 and how serious it is or isn’t.

I go to the gym almost daily, and I’m asked upon checking in to please wear a mask during my workout. I comply. Unfortunately, I’m one of the few who does. I see many folks at the gym wearing their masks below their noses or not at all. I hear plenty of conversations like, “This bleep is fake, bro.” “My body, my choice, bro.” Certainly, NFL bros, like gym bros and the rest of society, have differing opinions on the Coronavirus and whether it should be taken seriously. Perhaps, they have strong opinions about masks, social distancing and whether they should be allowed to do what they want.

Who has more access to players than a trainer? Maybe the Ravens’ trainer had strong opinions about COVID-19. “This bleep is fake, bro.” Perhaps that was why he didn’t report symptoms and didn’t wear his contract tracing tracking device.

What’s Harbaugh’s opinion on COVID-19? How about masks? I always see him wearing his, but how often does he take it down to scream at officials during games? How about his assistant coaches? Do they wear them properly, or do they do the under the nose thing? Was Harbaugh aware that his ground zero trainer, who has since been suspended by the team for violating COVID protocol, wasn’t wearing his tracking device? Did he even care? Did he encourage it?

As I alluded to earlier, one of the biggest problems with the NFL, right now, is so many people involved with the league aren’t following protocols before, during and after games. Folks might think some of these rules defy logic, and, I have to say, when it comes to things like not being allowed to hug opposing players after you’ve spent three hours bashing into them, I see your point.

But that’s not the point, neither is the 98.5 percent survival rate for young and healthy people. That might be true, and you might like to point it out a million times while calling me a sheep for wearing a mask, but the NFL doesn’t care about that. Again, the NFL is going to react a certain way to a positive test. It’s going to react a certain way to a player who may have been in close proximity to an infected person.

The NFL wants its players, coaches and trainers to wear their masks at certain times and in a certain manner. The NFL wants its personnel to behave a certain way before, during and after games. The NFL doesn’t care about the opinions of you, me or even its employees. The NFL wants things done a particular way.

We need to stop acting like opinions matter in all of this and just acknowledge that things must be done the way the NFL wants them to be done.

It’s simple: Follow the rules or deal with the consequences of an NFL game on a Wednesday afternoon.