With just over two weeks before players are scheduled to return to training camps, the NFL hasn’t had to deal with players opting out the way other sports have seen.
But one fairly significant part of a team with hopes to contend admitted Friday he had major concerns about returning to work during a pandemic.
Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith just posted on social media that he’s worried about the safety of himself and his family if he goes into a camp environment in one of the country’s COVID-19 hotspots.
“With the start of the 2020 NFL season fast approaching, many thoughts and questions roam my mind as I’m sure it does for many of my fellow ‘coworkers’ across the league,” he wrote. “The unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt to a lot of things. Football is not one. To continue discussing the many UNKNOWNS do not give me the comfort. Risking my health as well as my family’s health does not seem like a risk worth taking.
“With my first child due in 3 weeks, I can’t help but think about how will I be able to go to work and take proper precautions around 80+ people everyday to then go home to be with my newborn daughter. How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferral of all types of bodily fluid EVERY SINGLE PLAY practice safe social distancing? How can I make sure that I don’t bring COVID-19 back to my household?
“Yes, we can get tested everyday, but if it takes 24 hours to get my results, how can I know each day that I am not spreading this virus or contracting it? The reoccurring issue here is how? There are too many ‘hows’ that have yet to be answered to ease player concerns and ensure the safety of not only myself, but also my family. I just can’t imagine how the game will be the same during these unprecedented times. Now to hear that 35% of my paycheck may be withheld while we are out sacrificing our health and wellness for the joy and entertainment of everyone else who will be safe at home in front of their TVs? Something isn’t right here. That should at LEAST warrant a pay raise due to the risk, not a cut. I am not a lab rat or guinea pig to test theories on. I am a man, a son, brother, soon to be father, and I deserve to be safe at work.”
Smith’s probably not the only player with these concerns. And while he stopped short of saying he wouldn’t return, that’s a huge issue for the team and league as they try to return to play.