The Coronavirus pandemic is impacting life throughout the United States, and pro football is no exception. Just earlier this week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 clubs instructing them to close their facilities on Wednesday afternoon and allow only limited access for employees who are either providing ongoing medical treatment to players or maintaining the security of facilities and technological infrastructure.
Those new measures are a continuation of what clubs — including the New England Patriots — have already started to implement since the Covid-19 outbreak forced the sports world to gradually shut down earlier this month. Additional sanctions on state and national levels created a difficult yet necessary environment for pro football players: they cannot follow their usual workout routine and instead need to get creative while trying to stay in shape.
“Yesterday, I went out in my back yard and was running sprints. I walked it off, marked 10 yards, 20 yards — hit a couple 10-yard sprints, 20-yard sprints — then came inside and hit my Peloton,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said on his Double Coverage Podcast last week. “Everything’s starting to elevate more and more, so guys really have to find ways to work out at home and still get better without all the things you are really used to doing.”
“I think on top of that, both of us as parents, we are talking about no school for weeks right now,” added Jason McCourty. “I have three little ones, trying to find ways to entertain them, get their schoolwork done and all of that. There’s nowhere to take them — you can’t go to any trampoline places — so we are going on long nature walks, we pick up rocks and sticks and all that stuff. As long as they are not killing each other, we are succeeding as parents.”
Jason, who is currently rehabbing from an offseason hip procedure, added that players have been able to visit the Patriots’ facilities in limited capacity and for three hours each day to continue their rehabilitation work. The league’s memo still allows work like this to take place, but the fast spread of the virus still puts pressure on the entire league — from its decision makers in New York, down to the different teams and the individual players.
“It’s been something that has been, I would say, a work in progress,” Devin McCourty said during a media conference call on Wednesday. “Fortunately enough, I ordered a Peloton in the beginning of February [...] and that’s been key for me just to being able to, no matter the weather, jump on that. Other than that, it’s been FaceTiming my trainer and trying to do workouts that way, him letting me know some things I could get in the house and figure it out.”
“I think the good thing is everyone has that same mentality, players trying to figure out how they can get workouts in, trainers walking around their house and figuring out things that guys can do and then passing it along,” continued the team captain, who signed a two-year contract extension with the Patriots earlier this month. “Everyone’s kind of going through the same thing and trying to figure that out, but it’s definitely challenging.”
The Coronavirus itself, meanwhile, is threatening the NFL’s preparation for the 2020 season on more than just an individual level. Not only has facility access been restricted and college pro days across all over the country been canceled, the league has also already decided to push offseason workouts back indefinitely. Even more changes might be on the horizon, though, considering that the U.S. growth rate of confirmed Covid-19 cases is currently at 22 percent.
If this trend is allowed to continue without the continuation or additional implementation of significant countermeasures, the start of the NFL’s training camps in late July and the regular season in early September might be at risk as well. According to Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, there is already chatter within the league that “it will be nearly impossible for the season to start on time.” While it remains to be seen whether or not this prediction holds true, McCourty knows that no option can be disregarded at this point in time.
“Just how everything’s going, it feels like everything is on the table. Training camp could start on time or it could be delayed,” the 32-year-old said, but not without putting the entire situation in proper perspective: “It just seems like that’s like, I don’t want to say the last thing you worry about, but I feel like it’s kind of down on the things of importance, just because everything that’s going on right now, because of the health of people and just seeing different stories come out every day. It just feels like this season’s kind of on the back burner with just trying to make sure everybody stays safe.”
“You look at everyone in the medical field who are out on the front lines, still going to work, dealing with the virus first-hand, those are the true tough guys. I think, as much as possible, anybody that has a following, social media, any type of status, just being honest with people. Staying at home, doing different things, I’m like everybody else,” McCourty continued. “Hopefully, as a country and as a world, we can start to listen and do those things and get through this time.”