With coronavirus occurrences on the rise, particularly in Florida, where over 4,000 new cases were reported on Friday, NFLPA Medical Director Dr. Thom Mayer has advised players to refrain from group workouts until further notice. "Please be advised that it is our consensus medical opinion that in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases in certain states that no players should be engaged in practicing together in private workouts,” said Mayer Saturday in a statement posted to the NFLPA’s Twitter account. “Our goal is to have all players and your families as healthy as possible in the coming months.”
It’s been a troubling 24 hours of COVID developments across the sports landscape. Already knee-deep in a contentious labor dispute, MLB announced plans to shut down all spring training facilities after the Angels, Blue Jays and Phillies all reported positive tests. The Red Sox as well as both New York clubs have indicated they will stay in their respective cities for training camp rather than traveling to Florida and potentially exposing players to the virus.
Mayer’s warning comes after a 49ers player contracted the illness while working out with teammates in Nashville. The Buccaneers confirmed Saturday that at least two of their players and one member of the coaching staff have been quarantined following positive test results. With Florida quickly becoming a breeding ground for COVID-19, it will be interesting to see if the NBA adjusts its plan to resume play in Orlando next month.
Under normal circumstances, players would report for voluntary OTAs in April and May with mandatory minicamps scheduled for June, though this year the coronavirus has prevented teams from convening in any official capacity. That hasn’t stopped players from training together with Tom Brady and others organizing private workouts to build team chemistry and stay sharp amid an unusually long layoff. However, it looks like the league isn’t too keen on players continuing that practice amid growing COVID concerns.
The NFL has been suspiciously quiet in regard to its 2020 campaign, offering few details on training camps, whether fans will attend games and if the season will start on time. Dr. Anthony Fauci recently expressed his belief that it’s “hard to see” football being played in 2020, citing the potential for a second coronavirus wave (it may already be happening) and the complicated logistics of providing daily tests for both players and coaches. All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott was one of several Cowboys diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this week. Former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller of the Broncos battled the illness in April, but has since recovered.
Perhaps the COVID storm will eventually calm, but until it does, the NFL and all other sports will remain in a holding pattern.