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Veterans emphasize the need to make sure young players stay safe

Mike Florio and Charean Williams look at the potential difficulties the NFL faces after seeing Juan Soto test positive for COVID-19 hours before the Nationals' season opener.

There’s no precedent to go by for the 2020 NFL season, but it can be reasonably assumed that young players will be getting much more advice from the veterans this season.

And that’s not just about football.

A group of players told Peter King of NBC’s Football Morning in America about the challenges of making sure their teammates knew the importance of being responsible away from the facility, so they didn’t bring COVID-19 back into it.

“We gotta find a way to get all 90 guys to do the right thing,” Lions linebacker Jamie Collins said. “That’s hard. New guys, rookies, might want to get out and party. It’s not just about one person. You bleed together, you sweat together, you do not want to play with vets’ money.

“Men look at it totally different than boys. Kids are gonna be kids, especially in a new environment for the first time. That’s gonna be really important.”

That’s going to be hard for players to accept, but the reality came with the language in the agreement between the league and the union that outlines behaviors that could cause a player to be fined or lose paychecks (such as attending large indoor events, including church in places that allow more than 25 percent capacity).

“A lot of it comes down to the responsibility of the players,” Chargers running back Austin Ekeler said. “It sucks, but we are going to have to distance ourselves from our fans and in some cases from our family. Our job depends on our availability. It’ll take some sacrifice. But if we want to go back to work, it’s really gonna come down to putting ourselves in our own little bubble.”

That emphasis on sacrifice will be heard throughout the league.

“One of the first things you do as a mentor is be a big leader,” Bengals safety Vonn Bell said. “You got guys who aren’t going to listen to the protocols, who want to live life their way. One guy could ruin a whole team. It’s crucial for guys to understand you can’t be selfish. Gotta think about team. Fight the temptation. I’m gonna make sure I talk to guys, say, ‘Stay in, think about the team.’ “

How successful they are spreading that message could determine how successful a team can be, as well, as availability is going to be a more valued ability than ever this season.