All the stuff you always hear football players talk about — chemistry, togetherness, teamwork — just doesn't exist right now. Not with the NFL's intensive protocols now in effect.
The team is rarely together as a complete group. Everything from hanging out in the locker room to sitting in team meetings to huddling at practice has changed. There's no running into teammates in the hallway, trash talking in the hot tub or sitting down and getting to know each other in the cafeteria.
And it hasn't been easy.
"I think it impacted (me) just getting to know everybody," newcomer Javon Hargrave said. "I'm not sure if I know everybody like I should, so it definitely impacted (me) being real loose to a lot of my teammates."
With COVID cases among NFL players and coaches rising at similar rates to the general public, the NFL has instituted its stringent intensive protocols for all teams starting on Saturday. Because the Eagles had people in the building test positive this week, they're already in the protocol.
Intensive protocol is just a fancy way of saying increased social distancing and safety measures, but even before they went into effect it's been a challenging year for players who have grown up having the team aspect of football pounded into their brain.
And now they don't have it.
"I mean, it's definitely different, this whole 2020 year has just been really tough for everybody," Hargrave said. "But it's the new world that we're living in and I'm just going to keep pushing and trying to do what I can do."
Doug Pederson said before the season that being adaptable would be critical in 2020.
Now, instead of players spending the whole day at the NovaCare Complex, they're home for team and positional meetings and in the facility only for practice and lifting.
"(Are) we going to take these next seven weeks serious, whether virtual or in person, just like being in the building? Or are you going to take them as, 'It's a time to stay at home and cook breakfast while you're in a meeting and not really pay attention,'" Alex Singleton asked.
"It's up to every individual. I know I'm going to put my best foot forward. I even bought a desk (Wednesday) night so I could set up an actual office space in my house. I don't want to just sit on the couch. I want to have an office and my computer set up. I wanted it to be as professional as I could."
Usually, the locker room is the players' oasis, where they can let their guard down, trash talk with their teammates, relax before and after practice and just be themselves. Get to know each other. Build trust and a team culture.
Now they're limited to 15 minutes in the locker room in small groups and then they're gone.
"It definitely kind of depletes that a little bit," Jalen Mills said. "But I think at this point in the season where we're so strong-minded and focused on the goal right now, it's OK."
It's not just fun, relaxing time the players are missing. They're also missing in-person film study with their coaches, which is a huge thing. You can only do so much on a Zoom call.
"It's a little difficult, a little challenging, especially (not) getting that hands on teaching in person, that's a factor, too," Miles Sanders said. "But we've gotta do what we've gotta do to make this thing work, so we're willing to do it and the whole league should be ready to do it.
"We're ready for it, and ... if that's what it takes to (keep) this season going, then that's we're going to do."
Then Sanders pointed to his own face as he spoke on a Zoom call with reporters.
"You see I got my mask on right now," he said. "I ain't trying to get fined!"
Football players are such creatures of habit, and they're all being forced to learn a completely new set of habits.
But if it means keeping the NFL season going? Then it's definitely worth it.
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