Wide­spread con­cerns

NFL play­ers eager, anx­ious to re­turn dur­ing coro­n­avirus pan­demic

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - SPORTS - By Arnie Sta­ple­ton

DEN­VER — Sea­sonal colds and the flu spread through NFL locker rooms just about ev­ery year, send­ing some play­ers home sick while others slog through prac­tices hop­ing they’ll feel bet­ter by game day.

Last De­cem­ber, the Pa­tri­ots flew two air­planes to Hous­ton to keep the healthy play­ers apart from sick ones, which in­cluded seven starters. On the fi­nal week­end of the 2016 sea­son, the Raiders were rav­aged by a bug that swept through their en­tire ros­ter and way­laid hopes of a deep play­off run.

Now, teams have COVID-19 to worry about.

Off­sea­son work­out pro­grams have been en­tirely vir­tual since the league closed team fa­cil­i­ties in March be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic. Coaches be­gan re­turn­ing to their of­fices Friday but play­ers not seek­ing treat­ment for in­juries prob­a­bly won’t be al­lowed to re­turn un­til train­ing camps open next month.

Many play­ers polled by The As­so­ci­ated Press say they’re scared to re­turn to work with­out a cure or a vac­cine for the coro­n­avirus that has in­fected mil­lions world­wide and killed more than 100,000 Amer­i­cans. But they’re putting their trust in the health pro­to­cols the NFL’s med­i­cal staff is de­vel­op­ing for prac­tices to re­sume and games to re­turn.

Safe­guards are ex­pected to in­clude daily tem­per­a­ture checks and fre­quent virus tests, with sick play­ers quar­an­tined for two weeks.

The only play­ers al­lowed into team head­quar­ters over the last three months are those re­hab­bing from se­ri­ous in­juries. One of those is Bron­cos edge rusher Bradley Chubb, who missed most of last sea­son with a torn knee lig­a­ment.

“To be hon­est, play­ing foot­ball is like my No. 1 goal right now just be­cause of the whole in­jury thing,” Chubb told The AP, “but I feel like when it comes to the coro­n­avirus, the NFL has great lead­ers in place to make sure we’re go­ing to be back in the safest way pos­si­ble. I know these guys are go­ing to come up with a so­lu­tion.”

That ap­pears to be a com­mon sen­ti­ment across the league.

“I’m not too con­cerned,” Bears wide re­ceiver Allen Robin­son said. “I think that if we’re go­ing to be put back in the fa­cil­ity, I think mea­sures are go­ing to be taken. I think that a plan will be had and I think that enough re­search and stuff will have been done to put ev­ery­body in the best kind of sit­u­a­tion.”

Robin­son said be­ing in a locker room is no dif­fer­ent than of­fice, restau­rant or fac­tory work­ers who have re­turned to their jobs re­cently un­der new rules de­signed to mit­i­gate the spread of the virus that has dev­as­tated the global econ­omy.

“Peo­ple are close upon each other ev­ery day that are work­ing to­gether, so I think that as ev­ery­one kind of gets back to work, I think that with a good plan ev­ery­thing will be fine,” Robin­son said. “I’m not too wor­ried. It’s not any­thing in my con­trol, so if I’m back in the locker room and back play­ing, my level of con­cern will be pretty low.”

Stay­ing safe and healthy is more im­por­tant than ever, sug­gested Fal­cons cen­ter Alex Mack.

“It’s def­i­nitely a con­cern this year,” Mack said. “Ev­ery year dur­ing cold and flu sea­sons, they harp on us to get our flu shot. We’re aware of the risks of that. It’s al­ways in the mind of the team to make sure guys are healthy. You’re don’t want half a team miss­ing prac­tice time. You don’t want a bunch of guys sick on game day.”

As a rookie in 2009, Mack was clob­bered by the swine flu dur­ing the world’s last pan­demic.

“I had to sit home for three or four days, then I had to jump into a game with no prac­tice. It didn’t turn out well,” Mack said. “That’s not what I want to do ever again. This year, it’s go­ing to be the ut­most con­cern. Be­ing a novel virus, there’s no real

“I’m not too wor­ried. It’s not any­thing in my con­trol, so if I’m back in the locker room and back play­ing, my level of con­cern will be pretty low.” — Bears wide re­ceiver Allen Robin­son

his­tory. If you get the flu, peo­ple know what hap­pens. You re­cover and get bet­ter. With the coro­n­avirus, there’s a lot of scary things go­ing on in terms of a scar­ring of the lungs and things like that. (So) play­ing it safe is the smartest move.”

Staving off out­breaks of COVID-19 is es­sen­tial for the NFL to play a full sched­ule this sea­son as planned.

“It’s just do­ing the lit­tle things that you al­ready should be do­ing,” Sea­hawks line­backer Bobby Wag­ner said. “Hope you tak­ing a shower. Hope you wash your hands. And don’t be all up in ev­ery­body’s face.”

What’s not an op­tion, he stressed, was ig­nor­ing the risk.

“It’s real. It’s not some­thing that you can walk away from or some­thing that you hide from,” Wag­ner said. “It’s go­ing to make the sea­son a lit­tle in­ter­est­ing. We don’t know how in­ter­est­ing.”

The pan­demic hit home for a lot of play­ers in April when Su­per Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller an­nounced he had con­tracted COVID-19. He has since re­cov­ered.

“When Von got sick, it was like OK, this thing is se­ri­ous,” Chubb said. “I can’t just be out here do­ing what­ever. I’ve got to make sure I’m stay­ing in my house and do­ing ev­ery­thing I can to pre­vent get­ting this ill­ness and spread­ing this ill­ness.”

Bears de­fen­sive tackle Akiem Hicks said he’s eager and anx­ious to play foot­ball again.

“I have been quar­an­tin­ing for a re­ally long time. I even made a drink. It’s called the ‘quar­an­tini,’ ” Hicks said, adding that he quit quaffing his tequila-in­fused cre­ations af­ter read­ing some­where that al­co­hol wasn’t the best idea at this time. “But I will say this: It’s scary. It’s scary to think that most of my job is phys­i­cal con­tact. You know what I’m say­ing? With other play­ers.

“And so, boy, I don’t know. I don’t know. I want to be safe, and I’m sure that they’re go­ing to do their best to make sure we’re in the best pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion on the field to play this game and do it right. But it’s scary.”

JACK DEMPSEY/AP (CHUBB); MATT DUN­HAM/AP (ROBIN­SON)

Bron­cos line­backer Bradley Chubb, who has been at team fa­cil­i­ties re­hab­bing a knee in­jury, has faith that the NFL will max­i­mize safety for play­ers and per­son­nel as the teams pre­pare for the 2020 sea­son amid the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.