If you ask Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady about any fears of holding workouts despite the recommendation from the NFLPA to players to stop during the COVID-19 pandemic, he’d blow it off by quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt.
But not all players share the same thoughts. In fact, several players don’t even feel safe playing football this season. At least not right now.
New Orleans Saints safety and member of the NFLPA’s executive committee Malcolm Jenkins voiced his thoughts about playing football in an interview on Thursday where he considered football a “nonessential business” when discussing the risks of playing a 2020 season.
“We have over 2,000 players, even more coaches and staff. We can’t do that,” Jenkins said when asked about the potential of quarantining players (courtesy of ESPN) . “So we’ll end up being kind of on this trust system, the honor system, where we just have to hope that guys are social distancing and things like that. And that puts all of us at risk, not only us as players and who’s in the building, but when you go home to your families. You know, I have parents that I don’t want to get sick.”
That last sentence is what people don’t quite understand. Risks go beyond the football field.
There has been much debate across the league, media, and fan bases on whether or not the league should start without a hitch. With the league, they have decided to cancel the preseason Hall of Fame game and owners have approved closing off seats closest to field level this season.
It’s understandable why the league and its owners want to do what they can for a season to happen, apparently with fans and all. They want the opportunity to still make money. But without their biggest asset — the players — there can’t be football.
And they are the ones raising the biggest concerns.
“I think until we get to the point where we have protocols in place, and until we get to a place as a country where we feel safe doing it, we have to understand that football is a nonessential business and so we don’t need to do it,” Jenkins added. “And so the risk has to be really eliminated before we — before I — would feel comfortable with going back.”
While the league and players try to set those measures in place to try and play football this season, players face another challenge. The challenge of money.
Tampa Bay edge rusher Shaquil Barrett stated he is ‘50-50’ on signing the franchise tag the team designated him with. It’s a decision many felt should have been done a long time ago. But it’s not so simple.
The pandemic has affected football in the sense of “value” of players beyond 2020. If there is no season, the team can push back on a guy like Barrett and a long term deal citing that there will be uncertainties that there no physical concerns and he didn’t lose a step from two seasons prior if this upcoming season is skipped. Hence what teams may offer next offseason could be much less than what they can get this season.
This perhaps is the biggest gamble for a player and his agent — pushing for a deal now based on the performance of 2019 in case there is no 2020.
A legitimate and growing concern among players across the league.
For now, the biggest question remains. Will there be a season? We don’t know for sure. But until then, words from players who echo Jenkins’ concerns have to be strongly considered.
“It’s not even so much, I would say, the players’ health — because I got corona, and it really didn’t affect me much,” Dallas Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliot said. “But a lot of people have kids — they may have kids with asthma; they may have newborn babies; their parents or grandparents may live with them. ... We have to find ways to make sure that players and their families — and the coaches also and their families — aren’t put at risk.”