Football players are conditioned to block out things on the “outside noise.” The focus for the Bears, though, has recently been on racial injustice and police brutality — and those topics will continue to be part of the team’s daily discussions. There’s no blocking those out anymore or taking a "stick to sports" mindset.
Linebacker Danny Trevathan isn’t concerned about those issues impacting his, and his teammates’, ability to play football, though. But something else might.
“I'm more worried about Corona than I'm worried about that in football,” Trevathan said. “I’m not worried about, I mean it still exists in the world so let's not forget about corona, bro. You know, I might go to camp and somebody might have that and I might not be able to play no more.”
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Typically, the Bears would right now be in the midst of OTA practices at Halas Hall. The offseason program would conclude with a minicamp in mid-June, providing coaches with a total of 13 non-padded practices to install the playbook and build a foundation ahead of training camp.
None of those practices will take place amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Coaches will be allowed to return to team facilities on Friday but no more than 100 employees can be in a building at one time. And no players will be allowed, meaning none of the remaining OTA practices or this month’s veteran minicamp will be conducted in person.
So the first time the Bears as a team physically convene again will almost certainly be for the start of training camp. But coronavirus will still be around when that happens.
“It is scary,” defensive tackle Akiem Hicks said. “It's scary to think that most of my job is physical contact with other players. And so boy, I don't know. I don't know. I want to be safe and I'm sure they're going to do their best to make sure we're in the best possible situation in order to be able to play this game and do it, right? But it's scary. That's how I feel.”
How the NFL handles concerns from players like Hicks will be critical. Players will inevitably test positive for coronavirus, but widespread outbreaks in team facilities will need to be prevented.
"We fully well expect that we will have positive cases that arise because we think that this disease will remain endemic in society and so it shouldn't be a surprise that new positive cases arise," Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical doctor, said last month. "Our challenge is to identify them as quickly as possible and to prevent spread to any other participants. We're working very diligently on that and we'll have some detailed plans to share about that at a later time."
MORE: Read Akiem Hicks' full comments on social injustice and Colin Kaepernick
The NFL and the NFLPA have at least a month and a half to plan for returning to play in the midst of a pandemic. There is a certain level of trust, though, that wide receiver Allen Robinson has in the sport’s decision-makers to create as low-risk an environment as possible this season.
Robinson, too, has recently been working out with and catching passes from Mitch Trubisky recently (which coach Matt Nagy said is "freaking awesome").
“Honestly, me personally, I'm not too concerned,” Robinson said. “I think that if we're going to be put back in the facility I think that measures are going to be taken. I think that a plan will be had and I think that enough research and stuff will have been done to put everybody in the best kind of situation.”
Let’s hope Robinson is right. Because while the NBA, NHL, MLS and the NWSL have moved toward returning to play — and Major League Baseball moves toward a ruinous destruction of the sport — none of those leagues have actually staged games yet. The NFL has the ability (and luxury) to see what problems may arise with those sports’ return before encountering those issues as a league.
But as Trevathan said, we can’t forget about corona (bro). It’s — unfortunately — another massive issue facing our country, one that’s also bigger than football. We’ll eagerly await the NFL’s plan to keep its players, coaches and staff safe in 2020.
Until then, though, maybe we’ll try to figure out what was actually in Hicks’ Quarantini cocktail.
“There’s been a lot of variations,” Hicks laughed. “What I will say is this: after I found out that, I read an article — and just like everybody else, you read an article on twitter and every other form of media — they said that drinking alcohol could increase your chances of getting COVID. That kinda went down the drain at that point.
“But I will say this: Tequila was involved.”
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