Dolphins players’ COVID-19 concerns largely remain despite start of training camp set for July 28
As the NFL continues to weigh procedures to address mounting concerns for player safety amid the coronavirus pandemic, the league informed teams like the Miami Dolphins to begin reporting for work in the next 10 days.
Dolphins rookies are expected to report the team’s Davie facility on Tuesday with quarterbacks and other injured players expected on Thursday. Remaining players are expected to join the team on July 28, according to a Saturday memo sent to NFL teams after a league-wide meeting a day earlier.
While NFL team doctors believe it is safe to open training camp despite “a couple reservations,” some players continue to have doubts about whether training camp will indeed begin when intended despite the memo.
The NFL’s Players Association also expressed apprehensions this week for teams like the Dolphins beginning their training camps and players traveling for games to South Florida with the area recently deemed as the new epicenter for COVID-19.
Florida has accounted for more than 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 in seven of the past eight days, with that total reaching a new daily record of 15,300 on July 12. The death toll in the entire state topped 5,000 people on Saturday, according to state officials, with an average of 100 deaths per day in the past week alone.
“I’m definitely concerned because it’s been going on for a while,” Dolphins running back Jordan Howard said of the pending start of training camp before a workout Friday with Pete Bommarito Performance Systems in Aventura.
“I definitely didn’t think it would be this big or go on for this while, and it seems like they can’t really get a hold of it or a trigger of what’s causing it.
“There are definitely a lot of unknowns and the [unknowns] are the scariest part.”
Despite the concentration of COVID-19 in the state, many NFL players from teams all over the country have still trained alongside Dolphins players in the area this offseason.
Players with local ties like Jets running back Frank Gore, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and free agent receiver Antonio Brown continue to prepare in their hometowns.
Standouts like Jets running back LeVeon Bell, Steelers running back James Conner, Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones continued to train in the area like they have in previous offseasons.
Even Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins held a workout with other NFL players like Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker in Fort Lauderdale earlier this offseason.
Teams like the Dolphins, Jets and Bills have also orchestrated player-only workouts with Bommarito, a renown trainer in the area, to combat the lack of offseason training activities the players typically attended with their respective teams in May before the coronavirus outbreak.
Dolphins linebacker Vince Biegel is optimistic NFL players will be able to report on July 28, but acknowledges the players have expressed their uneasiness during league/players union negotiations which have ramped up in recent days.
“You see some of the veterans having more concerns than some of the younger guys because they have families and are in the back nine of their careers versus myself, I’m ready to roll for any situation,” Biegel said.
“I think the NFLPA and the NFL owners have to do what’s best for the league. But most importantly, we have to keep the players, the coaches and our families safe.”
Still, the players have concerns for their well-being and bank accounts with training camp set to begin.
First off, they don’t even know if they will play any preseason games. The league would prefer two preseason games, while players insist there is not enough time to train and take the field for preseason games in August.
The league and its players association also want to ensure players are tested daily to prevent the spread of the disease in NFL facilities, but do not have such guidelines in place before players are contractually obligated to report.
Players did not have concrete answers to whether contracting COVID-19 is defined as a football injury, one they would typically still earn a paycheck for, or non-football injury, which negates pay.
Although, Pro Football Talk reported Saturday that players who do test positive could be designated to the commissioner exempt list, which in recent years was reserved for players facing off-field allegations of misconduct with pay. There will be no minimum or maximum stay on the commissioner exempt list.
Players also have significant concerns about how contracting COVID-19 affects their roster spots or the potential influx of new players replacing teammates who test positive or need to be released in order to fill a need at a certain position.
“My biggest question is say you’re an offensive lineman, and you contract it. And you don’t get tested that day. And you spread it to three of your other O-linemen. Four guys on the O-line have it. They’re going to have to be out for at least two weeks. Are you gonna cut two linebackers, a safety, a wide receiver to bring four O-linemen in? To two weeks later, you cut those four guys, and bring those four guys back?” Biegel said.
“That’s a lot of moving pieces. How is that going to affect roster size? How is that going to affect player safety? Because if I’m a player and new players come in, and four guys get COVID, I don’t want to be jobless because other guys got COVID and I was being safe.
“So, there’s a lot of different aspects and this is a very complex situation.”
The NFL is hopeful players and coaches can work toward the start of the NFL season set for early September.
The Dolphins are scheduled to begin the season on the road against the Patriots on Sept. 13, with their home opener at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 20 against the Bills.
The Dolphins have already prohibited fans from attending training camp practices, attending any potential preseason games, and tailgating at Hard Rock Stadium during the season.
The team hopes to announce stadium capacity regulations for fans to attend games with tenured season ticket holders holding priority.
Still, many unknowns remain unanswered with players continuing to prepare for the unexpected.
“I have no idea, and I don’t think anyone else does either,” Dolphins receiver Gary Jennings said of his expectations for the upcoming season.
“As far as everything goes, I think the main thing is just staying ready for what can happen at any point. It’s just a matter of being ready any time, and just staying healthy.”
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