With the NFL season set to begin in September, there is still much uncertainty surrounding the league’s response to the current pandemic.
The 2020 preseason was canceled this Wednesday, teams haven’t been able to hold practices as they normally would and players still don’t know what type of safety precautions will be taken.
The Los Angeles Chargers new cornerback Chris Harris Jr. spoke about the pandemic on L.A. Weekly’s Riding the Bench podcast, saying, “Guys are excited to play, but we definitely want to know that the safety precautions are in hand.”
Harris added that there are several players around the league who have contemplated sitting out the season and it was something that crossed his mind as well, for the safety of his family.
“I definitely thought about it,” Harris Jr. said on the podcast. “Is it worth the risk? I don’t want to put them at risk of getting the virus, so I’m going to have to leave them at home this year. It’ll be my first year without my family. ”
Harris has seen the effects of the virus firsthand, as former Broncos teammate Von Miller tested positive for COVID-19 in April. Harris said that Miller told him about his symptoms and feeling like he was hit with a “ton of bricks.” That is coming from Miller, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound man who was in peak physical shape, still in the prime of his career.
The NFL has not addressed too much about any new league protocols, although they were the first major U.S. sport to make adjustments when it held its first ever virtual draft, which was held remotely back in April.
Earlier this week, the league announced that there would be face-covering enforcement for fans, but that is with a very optimistic assumption that fans will be allowed to attend sporting events in any given state.
With the season inching closer, several players have been outspoken about their concerns, including 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson and J.J. Watt. Perhaps the most direct came from veteran Saints quarterback Drew Brees, tweeting out on Sunday, “If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. Get it done.”
We need Football! We need sports! We need hope! The NFL’s unwillingness to follow the recommendations of their own medical experts will prevent that. If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. Get it done @NFL
— Drew Brees (@drewbrees) July 19, 2020
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said in a statement, “We are developing a comprehensive and rapid-result testing program and rigorous protocols that call for a shared responsibility from everyone inside our football ecosystem.”
As of now, the NFL and the NFL Players Association have agreed on daily testing for the first two weeks of training camp, but testing regulations have not been set for the season.
Testing is a major key for players like Harris Jr., who has no problem with mask or social distancing regulations. He just expects proper testing for NFL players and anyone they interact with within the confines of the league.
“I think the main thing is the testing,” Harris Jr. said. “Making sure we keep track of that, not just for the players — you gotta do coaches, everyone who’s in the facility.”
Harris also said he hopes to see regulations that limit interactions throughout the season.
I am concerned.
My wife is pregnant.@NFL Training camp is about to start..
And there’s still No Clear Plan on Player Health & Family Safety. 🤷🏾
We want to play football but we also want to protect our loved ones. #WeWantToPlay
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) July 19, 2020
We have seen similar approaches in other professional leagues, as the MLB incorporated staggered practices and social distancing protocols. The NBA went the extra mile and completely isolated their players from the outside world.
Whatever the NFL decides to do, it will have to come fast, as the NFL season is set to get underway September 10, with the Chargers playing their first game September 13 in Cincinnati.
For the full Chris Harris Jr. interview, tune in to the Riding the Bench podcast on Spotify.