NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants

As the nation experiences a slight spike in COVID-19 cases, we are all beginning to wonder if our favorite sports can really return in a safe fashion. Star athletes in basketball and football have tested positive for the coronavirus recently, but both sports are ready to return to action next month. We won't know how successful this return to action will be, but many are still optimistic about this development. 

One of those who believes the NFL can return in a safe manner is Ronnie Barnes, who serves as the senior vice president of medical services and head athletic trainer for the New York Giants. He and the Giants' COVID-19 "task force" have been working hard to make the Quest Diagnostics Training Center as safe as possible for all employees.

"Coronavirus is a dangerous and often deadly virus," Barnes told the New York Post. "I believe through education and safeguards we can have a football season. It is a challenge since the spread of the virus is not over. The great people of New Jersey and New York have done an outstanding job of adhering to the protocols that the scientific and medical community outlined. That is why we have been able to get back to this point. We have to continue to be vigilant. We all will continue to discuss what is the smartest, best next step.

"I started working on a plan for this virus the week after I came back from the [early-March draft] combine. We assembled key employees and educated them on the approaching novel coronavirus. We taught them how epidemics can spread into pandemics. We went to work right away to protect our players and employees. They did find it daunting that I took their temperatures at the meeting with a temporal scanner. We are still working to make a safe environment for our players and staff."

The Giants have set up 6-foot social distancing markers on the sidewalk outside their training center, are keeping the facilities completely sanitized and there will be masks and gloves worn. Barnes is going above and beyond to keep his staff and players safe and healthy. 

"I've got the utmost confidence in Ronnie Barnes in all the decisions we make as a team," Giants head coach Joe Judge told the Post. "He works hand in hand with us as coaches, he has the players' interests at heart, and he's been here through a long history of the organization and knows a lot of the progression of the years and how they piece together. He's been a great resource for me."

Barnes has been recognized for his work countless times over the years, as he was the first African American ever to be appointed head trainer for an NFL team according to the Giants' official website. He was elected to the National Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame in 1999 and served a seven-year term as president of the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society. Barnes also was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation's Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.'s Salute to Excellence Awards last year.

The NFL as a whole is working to get back to some level of normalcy as they enter the 2020 season, but remaining healthy as players return to team facilities is going to be of the utmost importance. If players cannot do this in a safe manner, the plans for the regular season could be altered in a major way. Many are relying on those like Barnes to orchestrate a safe yet effective return to football.