The novel coronavirus has started to make its presence felt in the NFL. A handful of teams have begun reporting positive cases, with games getting either rescheduled or thrown into uncertainty after players get positive COVID-19 tests. For one league elder statesman, the entire thing has led to him questioning the NFL and the NFLPA’s priorities.
Jason McCourty of the New England Patriots spoke to the media on Saturday and said that he was in the process of “trying to figure out who has [the players’] best interest in mind.” McCourty has recently seen one of his teammates, Cam Newton, test positive for COVID-19, and instead of the team having its games postponed while players who had come into contact with Newton quarantined, the team flew to Kansas City earlier this week. Players who came close to Newton flew on a separate plane, the game was moved to Monday, and later in the week, another Patriot, All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore, got a positive test of his own.
“I think outside of here, the people that don’t have to walk in our building — whether it is the league office, whether it is the NFLPA — they don’t care,” McCourty said, per Mike Reiss of ESPN. “For them, it is not about our best interest, or our health and safety, it is about, ‘What can we make protocol-wise that sounds good, looks good, and how can we go out there and play games?’ I think what I kind of learned personally throughout this situation is it is going to be up to us as individuals in this building to just really take care of one another.”
It is really hard to disagree with the veteran cornerback’s assessment that the NFL and the players’ association want to make sure the plan in place for COVID-19 does just enough that it looks good, but not enough that it would automatically throw games into jeopardy if players start getting the virus. An example of this is how the Patriots’ game against the Denver Broncos this week is still happening, although it has been pushed to Monday afternoon.
McCourty went on to talk about the days leading up to the game against the Chiefs. While he said that the players opted to do everything they could — masking up, keeping their distance, etc. — the team was still perplexed as to why the game happened.
“But without a doubt, that’s a thought — the same way you guys are sitting there thinking about it like, ‘Hey, they’re getting on a plane on Monday [to go to Kansas City], well, those days don’t really add up with the incubation period,'” McCourty said. “That was the same question we were asking our union before we head out there.”
Perhaps this will turn into something worth keeping an eye on if other players end up expressing gripes with how the NFL handles positive tests. But regardless, a player being this open about the league and the PA dropping the ball is fascinating.