Eagles

Why Jalen Mills says NFL players' mindsets need to change to battle COVID-19

Eagles

The Eagles are expected to begin training camp in less than two weeks, and football will look a little different amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Safety Jalen Mills has been preparing for the 2020 season all summer long, a big year for the fifth-year player as he tries to take on a bigger leadership role in the secondary.

It's unclear if the NFL will hold a full training camp, play any preseason games in August, or begin the regular season on time. Things are largely up in the air for guys like Mills, who are expected to be ready when play starts. It's a tall task.

But Mills is trying to take a practical approach to the NFL's plan, and he said this week the players also have a role in making football safe to play.

In a conversation Wednesday with NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark, Mills discussed how he views a safe return to football.

One big part of being able to play in 2020, Mills said, will be players adopting a new mindset:

If any player does feel any kind of illness coming over them, [they need] to report it to the training staff. Football is a sport where we've always been taught to gut through things, fight through things if you can play through it. It's, 'I feel sick today, but I can practice today, I can just sweat it out.' But at this time, that's not the type of attitude we need to have.

This is a really smart point from Mills, and it echoes the same problems football had with convincing players to take concussions seriously.

 

There are only so many roster spots and snaps to go around during a season, and while players want to be safe, it's also a battle with the guy next to you every day to stay on the team and to continue earning a living.

It won't be easy for some, especially those on the fringes of NFL rosters, but players admitting that they feel sick and informing the team immediately will be a crucial part of the NFL being able to safely play a full 2020 season.

Mills also discussed this week's statements from the city of Philadelphia about whether fans will be allowed at home games this season. As the COVID-19 pandemic currently stands, the city says, fans wouldn't be allowed at home games, but that can change.

Mills knows the impact Eagles fans have on games, and he said Wednesday he's holding out hope that he'll see the diehards at the Linc sooner rather than later:

I do think that eventually, sometime down the line - it may not be at the beginning of the season - but I feel like sometime down the line in the season, we are going to be able to see Eagles fans in the stadium. I just think it's going to happen, they're going to find a way with the right protocols to make sure everybody stays safe, and they are able to watch football, like the city of Philadelphia likes to do.

The Eagles are scheduled to play their first home game of the season on Sept. 20 against the Rams.

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