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Saturday Sports: Beginning NFL Season Already Marked By COVID-19 Outbreaks


And now to the theme music of BJ Leiderman, it's time for sports.


SIMON: What a rotten rematch - COVID-19 outbreaks in college and Pro Bowl just as the seasons start. Also, baseball - the Yanks are coming - and the U.S. Open with many big names taking a break. With us to talk about all of it, Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine. Thanks. I - 17-13, I think, was the Cubs-White Sox game last night.

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: But I digress. Nine people among the players and staff of the Tennessee Titans have tested positive for COVID-19 this week. What else do we know?

BRYANT: Well, we know that this is going to be the ongoing story. And what's been really interesting about this is the anecdotal versus the company line, which is the different teams in the NFL talking about how they've got a 97, a 98% vaccination rate, and then our - the sourcing and reporting that I do have told me that the - there's a huge battle within the NFL right now between players who are vaccinated or unvaccinated or the decision to do this and the idea that their liberties are being infringed upon by being forced to be vaccinated to play.

And what's happening on the field - Ryan Tannehill and nine other of the Tennessee Titans are now in protocol. Tannehill is going to miss 10 - I think five to 10 days. And he said he - one of the stories said he was vaccinated. Another one said he was partially vaccinated. The other one said he was in the process of being vaccinated. And then publicly before all of this began, he said he was not going to get vaccinated unless he - or he wouldn't have gotten vaccinated unless he had been forced because that's what the NFL's new rule is. So I think this is going to be something that we go on with for the remainder of the season.

And also, let's not forget this looming threat of forfeiture if the players are...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...You know, considered or the teams are considered to be irresponsible. I don't know how they're going to enforce any of this, but this is where we are one more season.

SIMON: Let's switch to baseball, if we can. The Yankees defeated the Athletics tonight 8-2, their 13th win in a row. What woke up the New York Yankees?

BRYANT: Yeah, it's wild. And I think this is what happens when you make trades. This is what happens when you get aggressive at the trade deadline. Your favorite first baseman, Anthony Rizzo...

SIMON: Anthony Rizzo.

BRYANT: ...Is now a Yankee. And the Yankees are out making moves and getting healthier and finding a groove. They were always a good team. But let's not forget, these are the New York Yankees. And let's not forget that they were struggling for a very much part of the season, a long part of the season. And sometimes when you look at a very good team, even over the course of 162 games, they may play 500 ball for the whole season, except that one stretch where they win 12 out of 15 games or something. And this Yankee team - it's happening at the same time. They're sort of leapfrogging the Red Sox. And so the good news is we're going to have a really good August - I'm sorry - a really good September if you're a baseball fan.

SIMON: U.S. Open - no Serena or Venus Williams or Sofia Kenin on the women's side, no Federer or Nadal on the men's side. What are you watching for? Just Djokovic?

BRYANT: Well, there's Djokovic trying to win his 21st Grand Slam title and - or major title. And that's going to be what everybody's looking at. I think the other thing off the court that everyone's going to be looking at is whether or not you've got Naomi Osaka trying to win back-to-back U.S. Opens. And then last but not least, the U.S. Open announced that everybody walking into the stadium has to be vaccinated. So here we go in another sport.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.