Several sports leagues are being forced to consider how or even if they will hold their seasons in the fall amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic. The Big Ten conference announced on Thursday that their football teams would be playing only in-conference opponents in 2020, a couple of MLS teams have pulled out of the "MLS is Back" tournament in Orlando and several NBA stars will not be taking part in the "bubble" tournament ready to kick off in Orlando later this month.
We haven't heard much about the NFL, however, but you would have to imagine at least a couple of players would sit out for different reasons. With the NBA restart quickly approaching, we have seen stars opt out for several reasons. Some have actually contracted the coronavirus, some have children on the way and then there are several players who are worried about their health as well as their family's health.
To whom it may concern:
With the start of the 2020 NFL season fast approaching, many thoughts and questions roam my mind as I'm sure it does for many of my fellow "coworkers" across the league. The unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt to a lot of things. Football is not one.
To continue discussing the many unknowns does not give me comfort. Risking my health as well as my family's health does not seem like a risk worth taking. With my first child due in three weeks, I can't help but think about how will I be able to go to work and take proper precautions around 80-plus people everyday to then go home to be with my newborn daughter.
How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferal of all types of bodily fluid every single play practice safe social distancing? How can I make sure that I don't bring COVID-19 back to my household? Yes, we can get tested everyday, but if it takes 24 hours to get my results, how can I know each day that I am not spreading this virus or contracting it? The reoccurring issue here is how?
There are too many "hows" that have yet to be answered to ease player concerns and ensure the safety of not only myself, but also my family. I just can't imagine how the game will be the same during these unprecedented times.
Now to hear that 35% of my paycheck may be withheld while we are out sacrificing our health and wellness for the joy and entertainment of everyone else who will be safe at home in front of their TVs? Something isn't right here. That should at least warrant a pay raise due to the risk, not a cut. I am not a lab rat or guinea pig to test theories on. I am a man, a son, brother, soon to be father, and I deserve to be safe at work.
This is an interesting development, as we have not heard much from NFL players regarding the return to football. New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins admitted he was uncomfortable about playing again since football is a non-essential business, but for every player admitting they were uncomfortable, there has been another player like Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who said that returning to football is "a risk that we are going to have to take." Smith's statement is probably the most serious one we have seen when it comes to the possibility of sitting out.
It's also interesting considering Smith's new quarterback, Tom Brady, has been on the forefront of hosting group workouts this offseason. His practices even warranted a statement from the NFLPA, which advised all players to stop practicing together after the league experienced an increase in coronavirus cases. Brady and the Bucs continued to practice after the recommendation.
Smith didn't say definitively that he was going to hold out in 2020, but his statement does shed light on something we may soon have to face: There may be some holdouts this season in the NFL.