Training camp season is upon us. Even though the Coronavirus pandemic is still not under control in numerous states all over the country, the Kansas City Chiefs’ and Houston Texans’ rookies have already reported to their team’s respective facilities on Monday. Sooner rather than later, the first group of New England Patriots will follow them as well — possibly as early as Thursday — before camp will officially be kicked off later this month.
At least that is the goal the NFL and the NFL Players Association are working towards. But while the league and the union have already answered questions about Covid-19 testing and are coming closer to an agreement about other topics such as the eventual length of preseason, some uncertainties still remain as Patriots defensive backs Devin and Jason McCourty pointed out during the latest episode of their Double Coverage podcast.
“From a player standpoint, we have no idea when our report date is,” said Jason about the current levels of uncertainty. “What time do we report? What’s the process? When we get there, all 90 guys can’t report at one o’clock to the stadium. So, if we all report on the 28th, is it all alphabetical order? Is the first 15 guys reporting at this time? Do we gotta go up the day before to get tested? Are we reporting that day? Are you getting tested then go home? It’s a bunch of questions.
“From a player standpoint, that’s why you’re sitting there like, ‘If I have this number of questions right now...,’ of course you don’t feel totally secure saying, ‘Hey, I’m getting to walk into the building right now, we’re on to training camp.’ without an idea of, ‘Hey, these are the things we’re going to be doing,” the 32-year-old added. “This is how things are going to be different: ‘In this arena things are going to be the same, but you can expect this when you walk in.’”
While some procedural questions remain between the NFL and the NFLPA in regards to training camp schedules and how to deal with the upcoming revenue loss during the regular season, from a players’ perspective, health is the biggest issue. Football as a full-contact sport could create a hotbed for spreading the virus unless proper mechanisms are put in place, and even then some risk remains.
“I don’t care how much money you have. It doesn’t matter if your family member gets sick, or a kid gets sick, or a grandparent or a mom or dad. That’s what guys care about right now and what’s important to guys,” said Devin McCourty.
“It could be a tackling circuit, it could be a blocking circuit, it could be man-press, where you’re right in another man’s face and you have to compete. So at any given time, we put ourselves at a higher risk than we’re used to,” added his twin brother. “It will be very interesting to see how things move going forward. Especially with some of these rookies having to report back early. And probably the guys that know the least about what’s going on having to be there, is not a great feeling, I will say.”
Nevertheless, the players’ perspective on the situation is clear: they want to play, as they expressed on social media on Sunday. Using the hashtag #WeWantToPlay some of the biggest starts in the game — including the McCourty brothers and Patriots running back James White — shared their thoughts on the ongoing debates about when and how to return back to work.
“Having players all unite together stemmed from a lot of guys on phone calls, trying to figure out how they can help, how we can get the game as safe as possible for us to go out and play. It’s been everybody all involved,” said Devin. “I think that just shows how serious this pandemic is, but it also shows how much guys want to play football. Guys have been training all offseason, finding ways, whether it’s been in their driveways, in parking lots. You don’t do that without the thought of being able to get back and play.
“Guys who have been doing a lot of the physical and mental stuff to get prepared to play, we just want it to happen now. We’re trying to exhaust all options to make it as safe for us and our families,” the team captain added. “I thought that was just awesome to see so many guys come together and really deliver a strong message.”