Patriots

Patriots

Players, fans and team owners all are hopeful the 2020 NFL season can happen as scheduled.

But with that hope comes a fear of the unknown -- especially for the players, whose offseasons already have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

On the latest episode of their "Double Coverage" podcast Sunday night, twin brothers and New England Patriots teammates Jason and Devin McCourty used "scary" and "nervous" to describe players' uncertain future.

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"I think everybody's nervous, because the norm is that we just go to work," Devin said on the podcast, as transcribed by ESPN.com's Mike Reiss. "We put in a lot of work, we bond together, we lift, we're in close quarters. It feels like that's all being taken away from us, so I don't know how to react. I don't know what's it's going to be.

"I love how a lot of players' attention has been on what's going on outside of football, and I think we'll continue to do that. But figuring out football, to me, seems to be the hardest thing right now. We hope, but I don't know if we'll figure it out, honestly."

The Patriots have conducted their entire offseason virtually, with players working out on their own or in small groups and "attending" team meetings via video conference. While some coaches were allowed back to Gillette Stadium earlier this month, most players and coaches won't return until training camp in late July, per a report.

 

That means each player must determine his own level of risk when deciding whether to work out with teammates. And after reports of several NFL players testing positive for COVID-19, Jason is erring on the side of caution.

"For me, there would be no coming together to do any type of practice with teammates, because I just think we can't dismiss with corona and everything going on," Jason said.

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"I've been out here in Nashville, and I actually go run at the high school where I think a lot of the 49ers players were doing their team practice ordeal. They just had a player or two test positive.

" ... It's kind of scary because something like that, I think it was probably just offense, so they probably had maybe 10 guys out there. When you think about the future, if it's hard for 10 guys just to get together to do little passing drills or anything of that nature, to think about somewhere between 53 and 90 guys in a training camp, it's going to be insane. So I don't know how that's going to turn out."

Many NFL players likely share the McCourtys' concerns, especially those with young children or family members with pre-existing conditions.

Dr. Anthony Fauci recently suggested the only way an NFL season could happen would be in a "bubble" format, but the McCourtys don't sound thrilled about that option.

"You're talking about 32 teams with over 100 members that you have to house; I don't know if it's really fathomable for the NFL to be able to go in a bubble," Jason said.

"I just can't see me stepping away from my family for that amount of time," Devin added.

The reality is that the NFL is at the mercy of the virus like everyone else, so players will have to wait and see what things look like in July when training camp begins.