DENVER – Seasonal colds and the flu spread through the NFL locker rooms about every year, causing some players to go home sick while others punched through the drills hoping they would feel better on game day.
Last December, the Patriots flew two planes to Houston to keep the healthy players separate from the sick, including seven starters. In the last weekend of the 2016 season, the Raiders were beset by a bug that flooded their entire squad and sparked hopes for a deep playoff run.
Now teams have to worry about COVID-19.
Off-season training programs have been completely virtual since the league closed its team facilities in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Coaches started returning to their offices on Friday, but players who don’t seek treatment for injuries probably shouldn’t return until training camps open next month.
Many players questioned by The Associated Press say they fear returning to work without a drug or vaccine against the coronavirus that has infected millions worldwide and killed more than 100,000 Americans. But they rely on the health protocols the NFL medical staff is developing to resume practices and return competitions.
Safeguards are expected to include daily temperature checks and frequent virus tests, with sick players quarantined for two weeks.
The only players to enter team headquarters in the past three months are players who rehabilitate after serious injuries. One is Broncos edge rusher Bradley Chubb, who missed most of last season with a torn knee band.
“To be honest, playing football is my number 1 goal right now, just because of the whole injury problem,” Chubb told The AP, “but I feel that when it comes to the corona virus, the NFL has great leaders to make sure we get back as safely as possible. I know these guys are going to come up with a solution. ”
That seems to be a general sentiment across the league.
“I’m not too worried,” said Allen Robinson, Bears’ wide receiver. “I think if we go back to the facility, I think measures will be taken. I think there is going to be a plan and I think there will be enough research and stuff done to get everyone in the best situation.”
Robinson said being in a locker room is no different than office, restaurant, or factory workers who have recently returned to work under new rules designed to reduce the spread of the virus that has devastated the global economy.
“People are close to each other working together every day, so I think if everyone goes back to work, I think with a good plan … everything will be fine,” said Robinson. “I’m not too worried. I’m out of control, so when I get back in the locker room and play again, my concern will be pretty low.”
Staying safe and healthy is more important than ever, Falcons center Alex Mack said.
“It’s definitely a concern this year,” said Mack. “Every year during the cold and flu seasons, she harps on us to get our flu shot. We are aware of the risks involved. The team always thinks about making sure boys are healthy. You don’t want half a team to miss practice time. You don’t want a bunch of guys getting sick on match day. ”
As a rookie in 2009, during the last pandemic of the world, Mack was plagued by swine flu.
“I had to sit at home for three or four days, then I had to jump into a competition without practice. It didn’t turn out well, ”Mack said. “That’s not what I ever want to do again. It will be the biggest concern this year. Since it is a new virus, there is no real history. When you get the flu, people know what is happening. You recover and get better. With the coronavirus, there are a lot of scary things going on in terms of scarring in the lung and stuff like that. (So) playing safe is the smartest move. ”
Preventing outbreaks of COVID-19 is essential for the NFL to play a full schedule this season.
“It just does the little things you should already be doing,” said Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. “I hope you take a shower. I hope you wash your hands. And don’t be in everyone’s face. ”
What was not an option, he emphasized, ignored the risk.
“It’s real. It’s not something you can run away from or something you hide from,” Wagner said. “It’s going to make the season a little interesting. We don’t know how interesting. ”
The pandemic struck many players in April when Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller announced that he had contracted COVID-19. He has since recovered.
“When Von got sick, it was okay, this thing is serious,” Chubb said. “I can’t just do something here. I have to make sure I stay in my house and do everything I can to avoid getting this disease and spreading this disease.”
Bear’s defense equipment Akiem Hicks said he is both eager and eager to play football again.
“I’ve been in quarantine for a long time. I even drank something. It’s called the ‘quarantini,’ ‘Hicks said, adding that he stopped ceasing his tequila-infused creations after reading somewhere that alcohol wasn’t the best idea at the moment. “But I’ll say this: it’s scary. It’s scary to think that most of my work is physical contact. You know what I mean? With other players.
“And so, boy, I don’t know. I don’t know. I want to be safe and I’m sure they’ll do their best to make sure we’re in the best possible situation on the field to play this game. play and do it right. But it’s scary. ”
Sourcing & Methodology
With contributions from AP Sports Writers Paul Newberry, Tim Booth and Steve Megargee.