NFL teams will have little or no offseason workouts in 2020. Which means that players will be working out on their own. Which means that some players won’t be content to, for example, grind away at a home gym.
Players will want to get onto a football field, and they will want to work out with new or existing teammates.
It happened on Wednesday in Florida, possibly after Governor Ron DeSantis (finally) imposed a stay at home order effective as of Thursday. There were Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, Ravens receiver Hollywood Brown, and free-agent receiver Antonio Brown, running routes and catching passes and otherwise ignoring critical social-distancing guidelines aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus to those whom it could make extremely ill or kill.
And there were Jackson and Hollywood and Antonio, in a photo posted on Hollywood’s Twitter account, which shows the trio far closer together than they should be.
Get ready for more of this. Players like Tom Brady will want to work out on a football field with new teammates like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Cameron Brate, and/or O.J. Howard. And once word gets out that players from one team is doing it, players from other teams will be doing it.
The NFL officially discourages such activities.
“Everyone associated with the NFL should follow the recommendations of medical experts and state and local authorities,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email on Wednesday. “We also strongly urge players to consider the advice of NFL and NFLPA medical personnel.”
Can the NFL do anything to players who violate these mandates on their own time? Consider the plain language of the Personal Conduct Policy, which prohibits among other things “[c]onduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person; and . . . [c]onduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL personnel.”
Players who ignore stay at home orders and who disregard federal social distancing guidelines not only endanger others by potentially spreading the virus but also undermine the integrity of the league and its teams by blatantly defying applicable mandates to remain at home and to remain at least six feet away from others.
Players who violate stay at home mandates and ignore social distancing guidelines send a dangerous message to the public. If Lamar Jackson, the league’s reigning MVP, can go out and pass football and pose for pictures in close proximity with others regardless of clear requirements to the contrary, why can’t the thousands of kids who idolize Lamar do the same thing?
It’s an issue that the league needs to take seriously, because too many people still aren’t taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously enough. And folks in the media should be willing to chastise anyone in and around the NFL whose failure to take the situation seriously may influence others to continue to not take the situation seriously enough.